Aaron Tugendhaft - "The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet" - Virtual Event

Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Aaron Tugendhaft

Aaron Tugendhaft will discuss The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet. He will be joined in conversation by Bruce Lincoln.

Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Press

Virtual event


About 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.

About the author: Aaron Tugendhaft teaches humanities at Bard College Berlin. He is the author of Baal and the Politics of Poetry and co-editor of Idol Anxiety.

About the interlocutor: Bruce Lincoln is the Caroline E. Haskell Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Religions in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, where he also holds positions in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and on the Committee on Medieval Studies, with affiliations in the Departments of Anthropology and Classics. Recent books include Between History and Myth: Stories of Harald Fairhair and the Founding of the State and Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars: Critical Explorations in the History of Religions, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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