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Providential Modernity Seminar with David Cook

January 9, 2020 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Providential modernity

The next Providential Modernity seminar will meet at 1:00PM on Thursday, January 9, in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Room (West Duke Building, room 101). The seminar will feature David Cook (Religion, Rice University) discussing his project, “Mainstream and popular Ottoman-era Muslim apocalypses.”

A vegetarian lunch will be served; please RSVP to receive a copy of the paper (and request parking on East Campus, if needed) to Amber Díaz Pearson.


There has been comparatively little work on Ottoman apocalyptic narratives, other than Cornell Fleischer’s work on imperial apocalypse. This lecture and discussion will focus upon several apocalyptic narratives chosen because of their representative nature of the material overall. Al-Suyuti (d. 1505) was a mainstream Sunni religious figure from Egypt, who tried to prove that the world would not end in the hijri year 1000/1591-2. Unfortunately, his treatise on the subject, while proving his basic point, raised the question of when it would end. As his treatise then serves as a basis for calculations for the next 400 some years, it is of considerable interest.
The anonymous calculations keyed to the year 1000 represent popular Islamic beliefs, and although much of the material is based upon an Islamic frame, the apocalyptic stories diverge considerably from the standard. Most likely it was originally a sermon or a popular tale taken down.
The lecture will use these basic apocalypses to provoke discussion of the different strands of apocalypse: mainstream, speculative Sufi, and popular during the Ottoman period.

The Providential Modernity seminar brings together faculty and graduate students from several area universities on a monthly basis to discuss work in the areas of history, political theology, and comparative sociology from Antiquity to the present. A key goal of the seminar is to place scholars of religion into conversation with one another and address scholarly challenges emerging from the post-secular age. “Providential modernity” encompasses a variety of social and political hopes, as well as anxieties, about the promise of history, sometimes expressed in millenarianism and apocalypticism, at other times in peaceful theodicies. In modern times, secular surrogates for providentialism found expression in revolution, social change, and the transformation of knowledge — ideas that have been conceptualized from Hegel to Fukuyama in discussions of the End of History. Many put their “faith” in “providential modernity,” while others, in despair, denied that history had any meaning at all. At the core of our deliberations will be an effort to deepen our grasp of the ways in which religions, Western and Eastern, both converge and differ in their understanding of providentialism, and how scholars may respond to the powerful working of religion in the postmodern age.


January 9, 2020
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
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The Ahmadieh Family Conference Room, West Duke, Room 101
1364 Campus Drive
Durham, NC
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