Cultural History and/as Intellectual History in Baʿthist Syria

20 Jan 2021


The historiography of modern Syria has been dominated by the work of political, economic, and social historians. While scholarly interest in the cultural and intellectual fields has increased over the past decade or so, this work tends to focus on the post-2000 period, with the lion’s share of attention being placed on cultural production and intellectual engagements from the Syrian uprising in 2011 and after. In this talk I would like to do two things: first, to present examples from my own research on the relationship between aesthetics and politics in the making of contemporary Syria, stretching back into the Hafiz al-Asad period, which will enable a discussion of the state of Syrian studies today; and second, to reflect on the relationship between cultural history and intellectual history in general, both through and beyond the case of Baʿthist Syria.

Max Weiss is Associate Professor of History and Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and a literary translator from the Arabic. He is the author of In the Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi`ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon, co-editor of Arabic Thought Beyond the Liberal Age: Towards an Intellectual History of the Nahda and Arabic Thought Against the Authoritarian Age: Towards an Intellectual History of the Present, and the translator of Arabic fiction and non-fiction by Nihad Sirees, Dunya Mikhail, Faysal Khartash, Mamdouh Azzam, and Alawiya Sobh, among others. His forthcoming book is a study of aesthetics and politics in Syrian literature, film, and intellectual history from 1970-present.

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Event Date: 
Wednesday, January 20, 2021 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm
Sponsored By: 
University of Pennsylvania