July, 13 to July 14, 2017
Beginning with the modern colonial experience, intellectual debate in the Arab world, and the Middle East more broadly, has been structured around a prevailing sense of ‘backwardness’ in relation to the advances of the West in politics, economics, science and other fields. The supposed challenge posed to this area of the world by the idea and experience of modernity has prompted an extensive, and at times tormented, examination of the bases of knowledge and culture in the history of the region, in order to ‘catch up’ with the West, or at the very least to make sense of the problem of what it means to be modern. Consequently the religio-cultural heritage of Islam or turāth has been juxtaposed with modernity, and treated variedly as a vestige of the past to be discarded, as the true foundation of Islamic knowledge and identity to be pitted against the tradition(s) of Enlightenment, or as one source of renewal that ought to be combined with the goods of Western modernity in order to achieve sought-after advancement.
This presentation is an explication of these discussions in the post-1967 period, which examines the ill or negative consequences of the modern experience in the Arab world. Focusing on the work of Moroccan historian and social theorist Abdallah Laroui, as well as debates concerning realism in Western political thought today, it explores different ways of addressing the dilemmas of modernity from a comparative theoretical standpoint.
Navid Hassanzadeh is currently a Hans-Robert Römer fellow at the Orient Institut Beirut. He earned his Ph.D. in political theory and Islamic studies from Georgetown University in 2015, and since that time has been a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, and a visiting researcher at Georgetown University. Beginning in the fall of 2017, he will be an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Towson University. His presentation will be based on his current book project, developed from his dissertation. He has peer-reviewed journal articles on separate projects, either published or forthcoming, in outlets including Polity, the European Journal of Political Theory, Constellations, and the Journal of International Political Theory.
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