Alwan Seminar Series: Talal Asad: "How Should We Think About the Upheavals in the Middle East?"

Wed, December 3, 2014 6:30 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Part of the Alwan for the Arts Seminar Series

How should we think about the upheavals in the Middle East?

Seminar by Distinguished Anthropologist and Post-Colonial Theorist
Talal Asad

Time: 6:30-8:30pm (Limited Attendance) (By Invitation Only)

In this roundtable discussion, Professor Talal Asad will address several questions concerning the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East. Long in the making, these upheavals have been shaped by internal factors resulting from the failure of the state to deliver the promise of an equitable and just life for their citizenry as well as global forces related to the violent engagement that the region has had with the West.

To understand this encounter, as one commentator recently observed, Professor Asad advances an anthropological genealogical practice wherein he turns his attention to the West in order to provide a critical-historical reading of latent meanings in structures of feelings and attitudes that are essential to the Western liberal way of being.

Participants might find Professor Asad's recent article "Violence, Law, and Humanitarianism" useful to read in advance of the discussion:

About Talal Asad

Talal Asad, esteemed Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, is a post-colonial theorist and anthropologist who has made significant and important theoretical contributions to post-colonialism and the studies of Christianity and Islam and who has recently called for, and initiated, an anthropology of secularism.

Asad earned his M.A. at Edinburgh University and B.Litt. and D.Phil. at Oxford. Before coming to the United States to teach at the New School, he taught at Oxford and the Universities of Khartoum, Sudan, and Hull, England.

Asad is the author of a number of ground-breaking works, including; Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam; Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity; Reflections on Violence, Law, and Humanitarianism; among others. He has also edited or contributed to numerous volumes and has published in a wide variety of international journals.

An essayist whose work explores the ways in which systems of knowledge and systems of discipline interact to produce specific ways of discussing, and thereby organizing, the world, Asad is perhaps best known for his focus upon the distinction between the sacred and the secular and the manner in which this distinction helps to make possible a specific sort of social identity: the modern nation-state.

Published Works

On Suicide Bombing; Columbia University Press, 2007

Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity
; Stanford University Press, 2003

Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam
; The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993

The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam
; Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, 1986

The Kababish Arabs: Power, Authority, and Consent in a Nomadic Tribe
; Praeger Publishers, 1970

For further information or to inquire about an invitation to the seminar series, contact Sophie Couche at:


Alwan's programming is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council.

Last updated: 2014-11-30 20:58:33

Talal Asad
Talal Asad

Alwan for the Arts

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(between Broad St. and Broadway)
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