Authoritarian ApprehensionsWednesday, January 22, 2020, 6:00-7:00pm
If the Arab uprisings initially heralded the end of tyrannies and a move toward liberal democratic governments, their defeat not only marked a reversal but was of a piece with emerging forms of authoritarianism worldwide. In Authoritarian Apprehensions (University of Chicago Press, 2019), Lisa Wedeen draws on her decades-long engagement with Syria to offer an erudite and compassionate analysis of this extraordinary rush of events—the revolutionary exhilaration of the initial days of unrest and then the devastating violence that shattered hopes of any quick undoing of dictatorship. Developing a fresh, insightful, and theoretically imaginative approach to both authoritarianism and conflict, Wedeen asks, What led a sizable part of the citizenry to stick by the regime through one atrocity after another? What happens to political judgment in a context of pervasive misinformation? And what might the Syrian example suggest about how authoritarian leaders exploit digital media to create uncertainty, political impasses, and fractures among their citizens?
Drawing on extensive fieldwork and a variety of Syrian artistic practices, Wedeen lays bare the ideological investments that sustain ambivalent attachments to established organizations of power and contribute to the ongoing challenge of pursuing political change. This masterful book is a testament to Wedeen’s deep engagement with some of the most troubling concerns of our political present and future.
Here, Wedeen is joined in conversation by Michèle Lowrie, Ghenwa Hayek, and Kaushik Sunder Rajan, with Jennifer Pitts as moderator
Lisa Wedeen is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and the College and the Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. Her publications include Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (1999); “Conceptualizing ‘Culture’: Possibilities for Political Science” (2002); “Concepts and Commitments in the Study of Democracy” (2004), Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (2008), “Ethnography as an Interpretive Enterprise” (2009), “Reflections on Ethnographic Work in Political Science” (2010), and “Ideology and Humor in Dark Times: Notes from Syria” (2013). She is the recipient of the David Collier Mid-Career Achievement Award and an NSF fellowship.
This event is presented in partnership with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.