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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

“Islam and the Modern Orientalist World-System”
Understanding Modern Islam
April 27-29, 2006 at Macalester

St. Paul, Minn. - Macalester College presents “Islam and the Modern Orientalist World-System” – The 30th Conference of the Political Economy of the World-System Section of the American Sociological Association, Thursday – Saturday, April 27-29, in Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel and the John B. Davis Lecture Hall in the Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center. 

The conference premise is as follows:  The word “Islam” has been transformed radically by the modern world-system.  Zones that were once part of the core of the "ancient world system(s)" — with the Muslim world at its center — disappeared in the nineteenth century, relegating the Mughal, Qajar, and Ottoman empires to the margins of a Western-centric world, subordinated to European and American power.  World-Systems analysis has been a useful tool in coming to terms with the fact that the world is politically, economically, and culturally stratified, with race constituting the very epicenter of the stratification. 

The conference will feature many well-known scholars including:

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University, who will talk about “The Political Construction of the Concept of Islam in the Modern World-System;” 7:15 p.m., Thu., April 27, Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel; Marnia Lazreg, Hunter College of the City University of New York, whose talk is titled, “Women: The Trojan Horse of Islam and Geopolitics;”  10:50 a.m., Fri., April 28, John B. Davis Lecture Hall and Joseph Massad, Columbia University, who will talk about: “Civilized or Decadent?  Time and the Culture of Arabs;” 1:10 p.m., Fri., April 28, John B. Davis Lecture Hall.

Other conference topics include: “Muslims as minorities in Europe and the United States;” “Islam as an autonomous “civilization” vs. Islam as part of a larger world-civilization” and “Crisis of the modern Orientalist world-system and the rise of Islamist movements.”

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,841 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.

Speaker’s bios:

Immanuel Wallerstein is senior research scholar at Yale University, the former president of the International Sociological Association and chair of the international Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences. He writes in three domains of world-systems analysis: the historical development of the modern world-system; the contemporary crisis of the capitalist world-economy; the structures of knowledge. Books in each of these domains include respectively The Modern World-System (3 vols.); Utopistics, or Historical Choices for the Twenty-first Century; and Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms.

Marnia Lazreg is a professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York.  Her research interests focus on development in the Middle East and North Africa, especially the interface between globalization, gender and national politics; the historical uses of torture as an instrument of terror and political control in France and Algeria.  She has published a well received book, The Eloquence of Silence: Algerian Women in Question.  She is now working on a manuscript on the topic of torture. 

Joseph Massad is an associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at the Department of Middle East And Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), Columbia University.  He writes regularly in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram and has published a sophisticated analysis of Arab nationalism in his well received book, Colonial Effects, published by Columbia University.  He’s completing a book on the issue of Palestinian and Israeli nationalism titled, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians