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Elkus interviews Charles Cameron at Abu Muqawama

[ by Mark Safranski a.k.a “zen“]

Longtime friend of ZP,  Adam Elkus interviews our own Charles Cameron at the highly regarded Abu Muqawama blog:

Interview Charles Cameron 

[….]  AE: How has the study of apocalyptic tropes and culture changed (if it has at all) since 9/11 focused attention on radical Islamist movements?

CC: USC’s Stephen O’Leary was the first to study apocalyptic as rhetoric in his 1994 Arguing the Apocalypse, and joined BU’s Richard Landes in forming the (late, lamented) Center for Millennial Studies, which gave millennial scholars a platform to engage with one another. David Cook opened my eyes to Islamist messianism at CMS around 1998, and the publication of his two books (Studies in Muslim ApocalypticContemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature), Tim Furnish’s Holiest Wars and J-P Filiu’s Apocalypse in Islam brought it to wider scholarly attention — while Landes’ own encyclopedic Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience gives a wide-angle view of the field in extraordinary detail.

I’d say we’ve gone from brushing off apocalyptic as a superstitious irrelevance to an awareness that apocalyptic features strongly in Islamist narratives, both Shia and Sunni, over the past decade, but still tend to underestimate its significance within contemporary movements within American Christianity. When Harold Camping proclaimed the end of the world in 2011, he spent circa $100 million worldwide on warning ads, and reports suggest that hundreds of Hmong tribespeople in Vietnam lost their lives in clashes with the police after moving en masse to a mountain to await the rapture. Apocalyptic movements can have significant impact — cf. the Taiping Rebellion in China, which left 20 million or so dead in its wake.

Read the rest here.

8 Responses to “Elkus interviews Charles Cameron at Abu Muqawama”

  1. prbeckman Says:

    I originally left this comment at Abu M but it disappeared.
    This from Charles really caught my eye:
    “Another way I see it is in terms of polyphony.  If you want to model all the voices in a conflict, all the various stakeholders in a problematic situation, you need a notation, a way of representing their various tensions and interactions — a way to score their polyphony.  And polyphonic & contrapuntal music is the closest analog we have — JS Bach is going to be the master here.
    “Creative insight, and indeed all thought, depends on analogy (Hofstadter; Fauconnier & Turner; Koestler) — so my Hipbone/Sembl Games and DoubleQuotes are designed to procure & explore creative/associative leaps & the fresh insights they bring, and nothing else. This is more a poet’s mode of thought than an engineer’s mode, & underused in heavily tech oriented analysis.”

    Especially like the reference to polyphony and analogy which I think offer pathways for thinking that we really haven’t fully explored. Milan Kundera in his books “Testaments Betrayed” and “The Art of the Novel” writes about the novel as more than just a story, but as an artwork that combines narrative, an oneiric or dreamlike element, and what he called “a specifically novelistic essay” and thus works towards the equivalent of polyphony for the novel. 

    I also like that Charles described his perspective as that of the poet because I think that is an important perspective that has not been updated to our current circumstances. The Mexican poet, essayist, diplomat Octavio Paz wrote about poetry, culture, politics & also described his perspective as that of the poet. And he was a unique person who doesn’t have an equivalent in the US in that he was a Nobel Prize winning poet who was also career diplomat & Mexico’s ambassador to India. I’m intrigued by that combination of poetry/foreign policy. But what is that perspective of the poet? In Paz I think its best expression is in his essays, and I think that Charles achieves something special in his posts at Zenpundit that pushes the boundaries of poetic form. There is no reason why poetry has to adhere to what amounts to a transcription of a song.  We are free to experiment with ideas, experiences, and insights in any form that is available to us. 

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Much appreciated!
    I had the opportunity to meet Octavio Paz at a reading once (Fuentes and Borges likewise, I’m a luck man).  And poet-diplomats, like poet-spies, are quiet interests of mine. Other fine diplomat-poet examples as well as Paz include St John Perse, George Seferis, and Pablo Neruda. 

  3. Scott Says:

    Okay, Charles, I give up.  You’ve convinced me – I’ve ordered a copy of The Glass Bead from the library!

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’m delighted!
    I should warn you, going in, that it’s a very slow book, with not a whole lot of action but very beautiful — and like a film by Tarkovsky, it takes a little getting used to. Besides, IMO the main character is the Game, not the fellow who plays it.
    It’s also an uncanny description, from the early 1940s, of what the web could be at its best! 

  5. Madhu Says:

    I tried to do the same thing at AM (on a different thread) and my comment disappeared into moderation too. Or maybe I’m banned given that I once had a meltdown on AM and really let poor Andrew Exum have it. It was embarrassing, even by my dramatic standards because, uh, I didn’t use my usual blog handle. Not cool.
    “Read comments sections, which will contain more unvarnished truth than is entirely comfortable. ”
    Lovely interview, Charles. For a blogger, you are incredibly kind. Rare quality.

  6. zen Says:

    Or maybe I’m banned given that I once had a meltdown on AM and really let poor Andrew Exum have it. ”
    LMAO! Poor Ex,  he just wants to be the recognized tank world authority on Hezbollah but he has a blog following him around with a Lego character, now run by two brilliant intellectual theorizing twentysomethings

  7. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Zen, If there were a “like” button..:)

  8. Charles Cameron Says:

    FWIW, I’m pretty sure the AM comments section is broken, and nobody attends to it. I don’t think you’ve been banned, Madhu!
    Adam has a very interesting overview of Benghazi & implications, Banquo in bandit Country, up at Abu M and also at ASU’s Center for Strategic Communications to which I’ve linked since I find it the more readable of the two sites. Typography matters…

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