Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226650609 Published September 2019
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226650579 Published September 2019
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Authoritarian Apprehensions

Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria

Lisa Wedeen

Authoritarian Apprehensions

Lisa Wedeen

272 pages | 11 halftones, 6 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2018
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226650609 Published September 2019
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226650579 Published September 2019
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226650746 Published September 2019

If the Arab uprisings initially heralded the end of tyrannies and a move toward liberal democratic governments, their defeat not only marked a reversal but was of a piece with emerging forms of authoritarianism worldwide. In Authoritarian Apprehensions, Lisa Wedeen draws on her decades-long engagement with Syria to offer an erudite and compassionate analysis of this extraordinary rush of events—the revolutionary exhilaration of the initial days of unrest and then the devastating violence that shattered hopes of any quick undoing of dictatorship. Developing a fresh, insightful, and theoretically imaginative approach to both authoritarianism and conflict, Wedeen asks, What led a sizable part of the citizenry to stick by the regime through one atrocity after another? What happens to political judgment in a context of pervasive misinformation? And what might the Syrian example suggest about how authoritarian leaders exploit digital media to create uncertainty, political impasses, and fractures among their citizens?
Drawing on extensive fieldwork and a variety of Syrian artistic practices, Wedeen lays bare the ideological investments that sustain ambivalent attachments to established organizations of power and contribute to the ongoing challenge of pursuing political change. This masterful book is a testament to Wedeen’s deep engagement with some of the most troubling concerns of our political present and future.

A Note on Transliteration

Introduction: “I Know Very Well, yet Nevertheless . . .”: Ideology, Interpellation, and the Politics of Disavowal

1. Neoliberal Autocracy and Its Unmaking
2. Humor in Dark Times
3. On Uncertainty: Fake News, Post-truth, and the Question of Judgment
4. Nationalism, Sentimentality, and Judgment
5. Fear and Foreboding

Conclusion: At a Loss

Appendix, by Sofia Fenner

Review Quotes
Asli Bâli, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
“Through close reading of an astonishingly broad array of cultural materials, Authoritarian Apprehensions captures the transition from Syria’s neoliberal autocracy to civil war authoritarianism while eloquently conveying both the grief and resilience of her ethnographic subjects. This wonderfully written book complicates the conventional political science account of authoritarian resilience and provides a compelling contribution to the growing literature theorizing authoritarianism.”
Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London
“Subtle and immensely insightful, Authoritarian Apprehensions is an enlightening study into questions of cultural production in the context of power, brutality, and obedience to rule. Drawing on Wedeen’s long-standing research in and knowledge of Syria, it engages the question of what it means to produce creative works in times of political fragmentation, state atrocities, and assaulted polities. Written in a vivid literary style, this book is so incredibly beautiful that I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.”
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