Iconoclasm, Then and Now. A discussion of Aaron Tugendhaft’s The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet

Date:   23.11.2020
6:30 pm Istanbul | 4:30 pm Berlin | 9:30 am Chicago | 10:30 am Michigan
You can buy Aaron Tugendhaft’s book from Homer Bookstores.
In 2015, the Islamic State released a video of men smashing the sculpture of a king in Iraq’s Mosul Museum. Twenty-five hundred years earlier, Sargon II’s craftsmen sculpted a relief of a similar event. What underlies the persistent drive to destroy images? And why do we regularly make other images showing their destruction? Art historians Christiane Gruber and Ömür Harmanşah will take up these questions in conversation with Aaron Tugendhaft, author of the recent book The Idols of ISIS: From Assyria to the Internet.

The Idols of ISIS is a richly layered reflection on the politics of iconoclasm. The book draws connections across millennia in order to consider the challenges we face in constituting pluralistic political life and how we might better succeed at living with the images that are necessary for such life to flourish. With discussions ranging from Assyrian palace reliefs and first-person shooter video games to Iraqi modernism, medieval Islamic philosophy, and how social media replaces prophecy with an algorithm, Aaron Tugendhaft’s bold new book challenges us to ask whether there can be politics without idolatry.

This event will held in English.

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Aaron Tugendhaft teaches humanities at Bard College Berlin, where he also runs the Science & Religion Project. Trained in art history, religious studies, and political philosophy, he is also the author of Baal and the Politics of Poetry (2018) and co-editor of Idol Anxiety (2011). He was the 2013 recipient of the Jonas C. Greenfield Prize from the American Oriental Society.

Christiane Gruber is Professor and Chair in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her main areas of expertise are Islamic art, architecture, and visual culture. Her most recent publications include her third book The Praiseworthy One: The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images and her edited volume The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World. She also has written an essay exploring the visual culture of ISIS.

Ömür Harmanşah is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work focuses on the art and material culture of the ancient Near Eastern world, with particular emphasis on Anatolia, Syria and Mesopotamia. He is the author of Cities and the Shaping of Memory in the Ancient Near East (2013) and Place, Memory and Healing: An Archaeology of Anatolian Rock Monuments (2015). In 2019-20, he was a Senior Research Fellow at ANAMED.