Revolution as Translation: Intellectuals & Society in the Arab World
In 2011, a series of spectacular uprisings erupted throughout the Arab World. They had one element in common: they were surprising, not predicted even by the most discerning observers. While festering grievances associated with those uprisings were already well known, hardly any social scientist or humanist expected long-held grievances to erupt in mass rebellions. In retrospect, it appears that rebellion was premised on new forms of knowledge that had been sedimenting over many years in the public sphere. This research project explores the character of such knowledge by asking the following questions: 1. How do intellectuals—and what types of intellectual activity—become “organic” in society, that is to say, make new knowledge appear familiar? 2. What is the relationship between different genres of knowledge in the public sphere, and how does that relation affect the translation of new ideas across them? 3. How does the activity of intellectuals in the public sphere help us understand the way “traditions” metamorphose and accommodate change?
Mohammed Bamyeh is Professor and incoming Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, and a member of the board of trustees of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS). He taught previously at New York University, Georgetown University, University of Massachusetts, and Macalester College. Until recently, he served as the editor of the International Sociological Association’s journal International Sociology Reviews (ISR). He serves on the boards of several journals and books series, and has delivered invited lectures around the world. Most recently, he served as the lead author of the first report on social sciences across the 22 member states of the Arab League. His areas of interest include revolutions and social movements; the history of civil society; sociology of knowledge; and Islamic studies.
Lifeworlds of Islam: Pragmatics of a Religion, Oxford 2019; Social Sciences in the Arab World: Forms of Presence, Arab Council for the Social Sciences, 2015; Anarchy as Order: The History and Future of Civic Humanity, Lanham 2009.
Based on empirical materials, recent cultural histories, and comparative theories, this lecture explores the connection between tradition and revolution, with specific attention to the complex sociological and cultural dynamics of the ongoing upheavals in the Arab region.