SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution: The Egyptian and Syrian Debates

Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution
Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies

Date: 20 May 2019Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 20 May 2019Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Room: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room

Type of Event: Book Launch

During the two decades that preceded the 2011 revolutions in Egypt and Syria, animated debates took place in Cairo and Damascus on political and social goals for the future. Egyptian and Syrian intellectuals argued over the meaning of tanwir, Arabic for “enlightenment,” and its significance for contemporary politics. They took up questions of human dignity, liberty, reason, tolerance, civil society, democracy, and violence. In Enlightenment on the Eve of Revolution (Columbia University Press, 2019), Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab offers an analysis of the tanwir debates and their import for the 2011 uprisings.

Kassab locates these debates in their local context as well as in broader contemporary political and intellectual Arab history. She argues that the enlightenment they advocated was a form of political humanism that demanded the right of free and public use of reason. By calling for the restoration of human dignity and seeking a moral compass in the wake of the destruction wrought by brutal regimes, they understood tanwir as a humanist ideal. Kassab connects their debates to the Arab uprisings, arguing that their demands bear a striking resemblance to what was voiced on the streets of Egypt and Syria in 2011.

Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab is associate professor of philosophy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. She is the author of Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective (Columbia, 2009), recipient of the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award for its Arabic edition.

Chair: Dina Matar, SOAS

Admission Free - All Welcome

Organiser: London Middle East Institute

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