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The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet

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Duration: 0:29:22 | Added: 18 Jan 2021
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Duration: 0:25:41 | Added: 18 Jan 2021
Episode 2, with Dr Faisal Devji, (St Antony’s College, Oxford), talks with Joshua Craze (University of Chicago) and writer Aaron Tugendhaft about Aaron's new book The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet, University of Chicago Press 2020.

Aaron Tugendhaft is an author and educator based in Berlin. He studied art history, political philosophy, and the history of religion at the University of Chicago, New York University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Sorbonne, and has taught humanities to diverse audiences on four continents. In 2013, he was awarded the Jonas C. Greenfield Prize by the American Oriental Society.

Joshua Craze is a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and a writer-in-residence at the Embassy of Foreign Artists, Geneva, where he is finishing a book on displacement and grief. He has taught political philosophy and anthropology at Sciences-Po, Paris, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley. He has published essays and fiction in the Guardian, N+1, Cabinet, and Foreign Policy, amongst other venues, and was the 2014 UNESCO Artist Laureate in Creative Writing. His work is available at https://www.joshuacraze.com/

Abstract from the book

In 2015, the Islamic State released a video of men smashing sculptures in Iraq's Mosul Museum as part of a mission to cleanse the world of idolatry. This book unpacks three key facets of that event: the status and power of images, the political importance of museums, and the efficacy of videos in furthering an ideological agenda through the internet. Beginning with the Islamic State's claim that the smashed objects were idols of the "age of ignorance," Aaron Tugendhaft questions whether there can be any political life without idolatry. He then explores the various roles Mesopotamian sculpture has played in European imperial competition, the development of artistic modernism, and the formation of Iraqi national identity, showing how this history reverberates in the choice of the Mosul Museum as performance stage. Finally, he compares the Islamic State's production of images to the ways in which images circulated in ancient Assyria and asks how digitization has transformed politics in the age of social media. An elegant and accessibly written introduction to the complexities of such events, The Idols of ISIS is ideal for students and readers seeking a richer cultural perspective than the media usually provides.

Episode chaired by

Dr Faisal Devji, St Antony’s College. Faisal has held faculty positions at the New School in New York, Yale University and the University of Chicago, from where he also received his PhD in Intellectual History. Devji was Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University, and Head of Graduate Studies at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, from where he directed post-graduate courses in the Near East and Central Asia.

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