Untangling Popular Power: Rhetoric, Faith, and Social Order in the Middle East
Where: Columbia University
116th St. & Broadway
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The Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL) at Columbia University in collaboration with the Columbia Global Centers | Amman and co-sponsored by our partners in Europe, are organizing a conference entitled – Untangling Popular Power: Rhetoric, Faith, and Social Order in the Middle East. The conference will consider various forms of popular power in the Middle East and North Africa by examining how populism is defined, the role of modern populist movements like anti-colonial struggles or popular anti-regime uprisings, how the use of religious identity has shaped these movements, and the relationship between populist ambitions and various media platforms, from print to broadcast to digital.
As “populism” itself becomes a significant force, both rhetorically and politically, across the world and in the region, the need for interdisciplinary scholarship across the MENA region is vital. This forum aims to explore the extent to which recently emerging populisms in the contemporary Middle East are illustrative of a new historical trend, and/or the extent to which they are a continuation of the diverse strategies for the mobilization of peoples that were deployed during international anti-colonial projects and civil rights movements. It will examine the intersection of populist and religious discourses and the relationship of secular and religious activists to political and social power, as well as the implications of the different strains of emerging populism on globalization, liberal institutions, human rights, and the media.
Although “populism” is a contested term, here we use it to characterize political trends in which leaders mobilize social groups for political action through rhetoric(s) that weave together emotionally charged themes into a message of economic uplift, nationalism, the wresting of power from entrenched elites, and the protection of an authentic way of life.
The two-day conference will be held at the Columbia Global Center in Amman and aims to provide a forum for scholars, local experts, advanced doctoral students, activists, and practitioners to investigate these themes and track how populism that uses religious discourse is being variously deployed across the MENA region. Following the conference, select participants will be invited to contribute a revised and extended version of their papers to an edited book volume and other online writing fora.
The conference invites contributions from academics, NGO organizations, religious leaders, and civil society members who work in and on the MENA region. Contributors are invited to submit abstracts for the following thematic panels with a suggested range of topics for each panel.Buy tickets/get more info now