Every year, Pitzer College’s Munroe Center for Social Inquiry sponsors a speaker series that reflects the pursuit of interdisciplinary learning and public inquiry. This year’s theme, “Islam: Beyond Ideological Narratives,” was proposed by Pitzer philosophy professor Ahmed Alwishah.
Alwishah believes this topic is timely given the current global discourse on Islam.
“The goal of the series is to help us to better understand some aspects or critical issues in the Islamic world. We invited distinguished speakers, based on their expertise and experiences, to help us accomplish this goal,” Alwishah said.
Starting Sept. 6, the speakers will be at Pitzer’s Benson Auditorium every Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. The majority of the in-person guests will give a lecture followed by a question and answer session, but the series also includes other types of discussions. On Sept. 27, a group of students from Habib University in Pakistan will participate in a conversation with the audience.
This series will host guests representing a variety of disciplines; activists, academics, film-makers, and political leaders will all be represented. There was also a concerted effort to ensure the guests represent different places in the Islamic world.
This lecture series is open to 7C students and the greater community. As Alwishah said, the series is intended to bring the Claremont community into contact with not only academics but also individuals who are inhabiting and influencing Islamic societies.
Another important aspect of the series is its seminar class, “Islam: Beyond Ideological Narratives,” in which students from the 5Cs have access to in-class discussions with the guests. Taught by Alwishah, the class allows students to engage in discussion with the weekly guest about materials related to the particular guest’s work.
“The guests have been an excellent addition to the class. The Grove House hosts us for a lunch each week, which really gives us the opportunity to pick the speakers’ minds and answer our individual questions,” Molly Hickey PZ ’17, a student in Alwishah’s seminar class, wrote in an email to TSL.
On Friday, Oct. 7, the series will host Ouided Bouchamaoui via Skype, whose lecture is entitled “How to Save the Country from Collapse: Reflections on the Tunisian Journey.” Bouchamaoui is a world-renowned businesswoman and activist who has been influential in Tunisia and worldwide. She was a key figure in the formation of the National Dialogue Quartet, which “basically saved the country from collapse after the Arab-Spring Revolution,” Alwishah said.
Bouchamaoui will reflect on her experience in creating a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia and the difficult times that followed the revolution. Bouchamaoui, along with her colleagues from the National Dialogue Quartet, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for their work on democracy building in Post-Arab Spring Tunisia.
“I chose her from among her other Quartet colleagues for her strong profile … she is not just someone who happened to go into politics,” Alwishah said. “She has addressed critical issues from economics to human rights. This is why we thought she would be a good addition to our lecture series.”
Students are also excited by the prospect of Bouchamaoui’s visit.
“For those of us who study the Arab world, Tunisia is an exciting bright spot as the only Middle Eastern country to have emerged from the Arab Spring as a true democracy,” Hickey said. “As someone who took part in this successful transition to democracy, I cannot imagine anyone more exciting to speak with.”