The Kon-Tiki Syndrome and the 'Ahaa' Awakening

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This webinar was held February 8, 2022.

"In my career as historian of the ME with special interest in Iraq I came three times across what I am calling, 'The Kon-Tiki Syndrome and the 'Ahaa' Awakening.' The Kon-Tiki expedition was a 1947 journey by raft across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, led by Norwegian explorer and writer, Thor Heyerdahl. Every morning they had a guaranteed breakfast because they just had to collect the fish that landed during the night on their raft (fish jump often out of the water as you know, and usually splash back, but some landed on the large flat raft). One morning the travelers found an amazing fish. They looked at it, gawking. Then one of them grabbed it by the tail, threw it back into the water and said: "There is no such fish." This happened to me three time in my research: In each case, for many months, I threw impossible fish back into the water, until one morning I stopped, opened my eyes, and felt: "Ahaa!" Two new books, on Ba'thi Islam and Ba'thi territorial-Mesopotamian nationalism, and two new articles, on Ba'thi neo-tribalism and Shi'is in the Ba'thi elite were born."                                                                         

- Amatzia Baram         
Dr. Amatzia Baram is Professor Emeritus at the University of Haifa in Israel. Dr. Baram received his Ph.D. in 1986 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He taught mainly at the University of Haifa, where he also served as Head of the Department of Middle East Studies, Director of the Middle East Institute and the Jewish-Arab Center, and founder and first director of the Centers for Iraq Studies and The Ezri Center for the Study of Iran and the Persian Gulf. He also taught at Georgetown University, was a resident Senior Associate Member at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University as well as a resident senior fellow in research centers, including twice at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC and The Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy. Dr. Baram advised the governments of the US and Israel on the Persian Gulf. The main focus of his research has been on modern Iraq, Shi’i Islamic movements and intellectual trends in the Arab world. His books include Culture, History, and Ideology in the Formation of Ba’thi Iraq (Oxford, London, NY, Macmillan, 1991) and Saddam Husayn and Islam 1968-2003: Ba’thi Iraq from Secularism to Faith (Washington, DC, The WWC and Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). An upcoming article on  "Speaking Truth to Power in a Dictatorship Secular Ideology Versus Islamic Realpolitik - A Fierce Dispute in Saddam’s Iraq '' will be published in the Journal of the Middle East and Africa in late 2022.