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Durham University

University College


Durham Castle Lecture - Prof. Tamara Sonn

13th February 2019, 20:00 to 21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle, University College

The Myth of Civilizations? Understanding Islam in Global Perspective

In 2018, Euro-America celebrated the centenary of the conclusion of the Great War, which they had to rename World War I because another one followed fast on its heels. Coincidentally, 2018 also marked the deaths of renowned Cold War historian Richard Pipes and the scholar who coined the phrase “clash of civilizations,” Bernard Lewis. This lecture suggests that today’s U.S.-led wars in Muslim-majority countries are, like World War II, residual effects of unfinished business in World War I. It challenges the framing of wars as ideological conflicts -- the “Cold War” against Communism, Global War on Terror -- and suggests that such framing deflects attention from the root causes of the conflicts, making their resolution all the more difficult. Just as neither fascism nor totalitarianism was defeated militarily, neither will terrorism be. The lecture concludes by suggesting more inclusive treatment of Afro-Eurasia history as an antidote for politically biased narratives.


Tamara Sonnis Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of the History of Islam at Georgetwon University. Her publications have been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, and Russian. She has lectured in North America, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, Fulbright, and the U.S. Department of State, among others. She served as senior editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2003), and associate editor of Oxford's Encyclopedia The Islamic World Past and Present (2004). She is senior editor of Oxford Islamic Studies Online, and of Oxford's Encyclopedia of the Islamic World, as well as Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Sonn is also founding editor-in-chief of Oxford Bibliographies Online--Islamic Studies, and of Wiley-Blackwell's online journal of Religious Studies Religion Compass.

Free and open to all. No ticket or reservation required.

- Doors open from 7.30pm.
- Lectures begin at 8pm, with questions for the speaker at 9pm.

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