Unless indicated otherwise, the sessions below are for seminar members only. For a list of events open to the public, please visit our updated Schedule Page or the sessions marked as “Public Events.”
Our kickoff event will focus on the provocative question of whether some revolutions are more important than others.
For this session, we have invited two established theorists of political revolution. Bernard Yack, Professor of Politics at Brandeis University, and author of The Longing for Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Discontent from Rousseau to Marx (1992), has focused principally on revolutions in Europe since the French Revolution. David Scott, Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, is a specialist on Caribbean revolutionary history from the Haitian Revolution of 1791 to the Grenada Revolution of 1972. In his seminal book, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment (2004), Scott explicitly and enthusiastically cites Yack’s concept of “longing” as he tries to re-conceptualize how we write histories of the Haitian Revolution. Yack’s concept of longing is cited again in Scott’s next book on the Grenada Revolution, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice (2014). Thus we intend to start our seminar by having these two leading scholars and theorists of revolutions engage in a conversation beyond the pages of their scholarship. This should be a particularly fruitful dialogue given that both of these scholars over the course of their career have worked on “global revolutions” (the French and Haitian Revolutions) and on smaller, “national” revolutions.
Bernard Yack, “Introduction,” The Longing For Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and Nietzsche, (Berkeley: UC Press, 1992), pp. 3-31 and David Scott, “Prologue,” Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), pp. 1-29.
Framing and Re-Framing Twentieth Century Revolutions
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | 5-8 pm
David Scott, Anthropology, Columbia University
Our opening session will lay out the questions and themes of this seminar. Additionally, we will discuss the logic behind our selection of case studies and lay out, with the group, a roadmap for the year. Rather than begin with the unanswerable question of “what is a revolution?” we will discuss what is at stake in naming some events revolutions and others as rebellions, insurrections, or wars of independence. How does this practice render some events more visible and enduring than others? What criteria have scholars established that allow or encourage us to think about some revolutions in tandem or in comparison with one another? Additionally, we will discuss notions of failed vs. successful revolutions, and, connectedly, the multiple ways in which revolutionary genealogies can be and are constructed. For example, is success merely linked to revolutionaries who are able to stay in power after winning a conflict, and is failure linked to an inability to maintain power after winning a conflict? In other words, what is the overarching consideration for scholars when we categorize certain revolutions as successful and others as failures?
- T. Skocpol, “Rentier State and Shi’a Islam in the Iranian Revolutions” Theory and Society II:3 (1982), 265-283.
- Gary Wilder, “Unthinking France, Rethinking Decolonization,” in Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World, (Duke University Press, 2015), p.1-16
- David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice, (Duke University Press, 2014), 1-172
- Eric Selbin, “Chapter 8: Revolutions of the Lost and Forgotten,” in Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story, (Zed Books, 2010).
- Simeon C.R. McIntosh, “Legitimacy, Validity and the Doctrine of Law,” in Kelsen in the Grenada Court: Essays on Revolutionary Legality, (Ian Randle Publishers, 2008), p.1-46.
Wednesday, October 25 | 5:30-8:30 pm
Muriam Haleh Davis, Algeria, History, UCSC
Daniel Goldstein, Bolivia, Anthropology, Rutgers University
In introducing the term “core revolutions” we mean to denote revolutions that scholars working across a number of fields identify as being central to understanding a particular historical moment, political concept, or development in artistic or humanistic representation.
For more on this session’s theme, visit our Theme's Page.
- Frantz Fanon, Toward the African Revolution: Political Essays, (Grove Press, New York, 1967), pp. 30-63.
- Muriam Haleh Davis, “‘The Transformation of Man’ in French Algeria: Economic Planning and the Postwar Social Sciences, 1958–62,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 52(1), 2017, pp. 73–94.
- Robert Malley, The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam,” (Berkeley: UC Press, 1996), pp. 77-156.
- Marnia Lazreg, “Nationalism, Decolonization and Gender,” in The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question, pp.118-141.
- Robert Albro, “The Culture of Democracy and Bolivia’s Indigenous Movements,” Critique of Anthropology, Vol 26 (4), pp. 387-410.
- Andrew Canessa, “Todos somos indıgenas: Towards a New Language of National Political Identity,” Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 25 (2) 2006, pp. 241–263.
- James Dunkerley, “Evo Morales, the ‘Two Bolivias ’and the Third Bolivian Revolution,” Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 39, 2007, pp. 133-166.
- Daniel M. Goldstein, Outlawed, (Duke University Press: Durham and London, 2012), pp. 167-202.
- Nancy Postero, “The Struggle to Create a Radical Democracy in Bolivia,” Latin American Research Review, Special Issue, 2010, pp. 59-78.
Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, “Ch’ixinakax utxiwa: A Reflection on the Practices and Discourses of Decolonization,” The South Atlantic Quarterly, Winter 2012, pp. 95-109.
- Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson, Revolutionary Horizons: Past and Present in Bolivian Politics, pp.1-172.
Translating the Grenada and Iranian Revolutionary Experiences into Theory: A Discussion with Professors Brian Meeks and Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi
November 29, 2017 | 4:30-6:30 pm | Location TBD
(co-sponsored by the Mandel Center for the Humanities)
Revolutionary Theories and Revolutionary Programs
November 30, 2017 | 5-8 pm
Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Iran, Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana
Brian Meeks, Grenada, Chair of Africana Studies, Brown University
The notion of a core/derivative division in world revolutions is reinforced by the canon of revolutionary texts created at the core and consumed by the derivative. Using the lens and methods of political theory and literary criticism, this session asks: Is there a distinction to be made between revolutionary theory (i.e. the cannon consumed) and revolutionary programs (the utopian vision revolutionaries had)? In other words, while everyone was reading the same texts were they also dreaming the same dreams?
For more on this session’s theme, visit our Theme's Page.
- Hannah Arendt, “The Meaning of Revolution,” and “The Social Question,” in On Revolution, (Penguin edition, 1990), 21-114.
- Crane Brinton, “Introduction,” in The Anatomy of Revolution, (Vintage revised edition, 1965), p3-26.
- Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment, (U of Minnesota Press, 2016),1-18; 55-192.
- Brian Meeks, Caribbean Revolutions and Revolutionary Theory: An Assessment of Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada, (University of West Indies Press, 2001), p.1-196.
- Shalini Puri, “Preface” and “Introduction: The Scales of History” in The Grenada Revolution in the Caribbean Present: Operation Urgent Memory, (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2014), p.x-29.
- Eric Selbin, “The Case for Stories: Stories and Social Change,” in Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story, (Zed Books, 2010), p.23-47.
- Jeff Goodwin, “Conclusion: Generalizations and Prognostication,” in No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991, (Cambridge University Press, 2001), p.289-306.
- John Foran, “Discourses and Social Forces,” in Foran (ed.), Theorizing Revolutions, (Routledge, 1997), p.203-218.
Alternative Genealogies of Revolutions
January 16, 2018 | 5-8 pm
Karen Kampwirth, Nicaragua, Political Science, Knox College
Lauri Lambert, African American and African Studies, UC Davis
The common corpus of texts of some of these late 20th century revolutions has led to a genealogy that traces them back to the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the Cuban revolution, and sometimes (though less commonly) to the French revolution as their originary moment. This session asks: Does a distinction between revolutionary theory and dreams lead to alternative genealogies of revolutions?
For more on this session’s theme, head to the Theme's Page.
The Politics of Naming
February 27, 2018 | 5-8 pm
Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Oman, History at the University of Houston
Jeffrey Byrne, Algeria, History, University of British Columbia
Marlene Daut, African Diaspora Studies, University of Virginia
More often than not, scholarship focuses either on structural definitions of revolutions or the historical actors’ subjectivity (i.e., a revolution is a revolution if the actors say it is). In this session though, we move away from these questions by focusing on how and why events considered as revolutions in their own times have come to be named differently.
For more on this session’s theme, visit our Theme's Page.
The Forgotten Age of Revolutions?
March 13, 2018 | 5-8 pm
Paul Amar, Brazil and Egypt, Global Studies, UCSB
Asef Bayat, Iran and Egypt, Sociology, University of Illinois
Our seminar will turn to a question we asked at the beginning of this proposal: What is at stake in a project such as ours beyond the recovery of lost voices and narratives? And do we need a new conceptualization not only of the age of revolutions but even more broadly, of the idea of comparative studies of revolutions? To truly begin to answer these questions, we hope to expand the scope of our conversation to the institutional and disciplinary factors that create particular concepts and particular genealogies in a global study of revolution.
- Asef Bayat, Revolution Without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring, (Stanford University Press, 2017), p.xi-228
- Paul Amar, (150 pgs)
- John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, (Pluto Press, 2005), 11-117
Closing Public Event
Conceptualizing a Twentieth Century Age of Revolutions
March 14, 2018 | 5-7 pm, followed by reception | Mandel Center Atrium, Mandel Center for the Humanities, Brandeis University
In our last public event, we will have a conversation between scholars of the late 18th and early 19th century “age of revolutions” and scholars of the twentieth century “third world revolutions.”
For this event, we will be joined by the 2013-14 principle investigators of the Sawyer Seminar “Rethinking the Age of Revolutions” at Brandeis: Professor Jane Kamensky, a historian of early America and the Atlantic World, and Professor Sue Lanser, a scholar of early eighteenth-century culture and the French Revolution. Joining them will be Professor Sinclair Thomson, a scholar of historical memory and revolutions in Bolivia and Professor Asef Bayat who has written extensively on the Iranian revolution and the most recent Arab spring revolutionary movements.
The focus of this panel is the question of what is at stake in defining a variety of “age of revolutions,” whether the twentieth century revolutions under consideration in this Sawyer seminar also constitute an “age of revolutions,” and the conceptual differences and similarities between these two crucial revolutionary epochs.
Wrap up and Future Lines of Inquiry
April 24, 2018 | 5-8 pm
We will end our Mellon Sawyer seminar with a discussion among the faculty and graduate student participants. We will discuss the themes and lines of inquiry that has emerged over our yearlong conversations and look to ways to build upon these ideas in our own work and institutions moving forward. We will also discuss the possibility of publishing a volume based on the ideas of the seminar.
- Quinn Slobodian, Foreign Front: Third World Politics in Sixties West Germany, (Duke University Press, 2012), p.1-208.
- Étienne Balibar, “Uprisings in the Banlieues,” in Equaliberty: Political Essays, (Duke University Press, 2015), p.231-258
- Samantha Christiansen and Zachary A. Scarlett, “Introduction,” The Third World in the Global 1960s (Protest, Culture, and Society), (Berghahn Books, 2013)