Lisa Wedeen Receives the 2022 Laing Award

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The University of Chicago Press is pleased to announce that Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Judgment, and Mourning in Syria by Lisa Wedeen is the recipient of the 2022 Gordon J. Laing Award. The award was presented by University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos at a gala reception on May 17, 2022, in the City View Room of the David Rubenstein Forum at the University of Chicago.

The Gordon J. Laing Award is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications on the faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the list of the University of Chicago Press. Books published in 2019 and 2020 were eligible for the 2022 award. The award is named in honor of the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States.

In Authoritarian Apprehensions, Lisa Wedeen draws on her decades-long engagement with Syria to offer an erudite and compassionate analysis of the uprising of 2011—the revolutionary exhilaration of the initial days of unrest and then the devastating violence that shattered hopes of any quick undoing of dictatorship. In its review, the Times Literary Supplement offered this praise: “Wedeen helps to answer the questions that have most perplexed scholars and commentators: how has Bashar al-Assad’s regime survived? And what explains the shrugging acceptance of it by so many ordinary Syrians? More broadly, she forces us to ponder the possibilities for political judgment in a world where facts no longer hold sway. . . . In this lucid and thought-provoking study, Wedeen shows us that, in the face of uncertainty, ambivalence and apathy thrive.”

Garrett Kiely, Director of the Press commented, “We are very proud to have published Lisa Wedeen’s work, which offers an insightful, research-driven engagement with authoritarianism and some of the most troubling concerns of our political present and future. Lisa is a great friend of the Press and we are excited to see her receive this honor.”

“Beyond providing an urgently needed contemporary account of an urgent contemporary crisis, Lisa mobilized her longstanding expertise on the Middle East and Syria to help us understand the ideological make up and media operations that have sustained a civil war and authoritarian regime and challenged the very possibility for political change. The Board especially valued Lisa’s study of the contemporary possibilities for judgment, made increasingly impossible by media control and disinformation, and its quintessentially UChicago, cross-disciplinary relevance beyond her field of political science—to ethnography, media and film studies, social theory, and artistic practice,” noted Board of University Publications Chair Christine Mehring.

Lisa Wedeen is the Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science and in the College, associate faculty in anthropology, and codirector of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. She is also the author of Ambiguities of Domination and Peripheral Visions, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

“It is deeply gratifying, thrilling, really, to receive the 2022 Laing Award because I love the Press and so value the views of my peers. Academic writing can be a lonely venture but it is also collaborative, and I am appreciative in particular of my Syrian friends, colleagues, and interlocutors without whom this book would not exist,” said Wedeen.

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos noted, “The University of Chicago Press has been an important channel of engagement for our scholars since it first was conceived by William Rainey Harper at the time of our founding. The Gordon J. Laing Award is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the work of our faculty and the special relationship they have shared with UChicago Press for more than 130 years. I am pleased to offer Lisa Wedeen my sincere congratulations for this well-deserved award.”

Wedeen joins a distinguished list of previous recipients that includes Eve Ewing, Michael Rossi, Adrian Johns, Deborah Nelson, Alison Winter, Robert Richards, Martha Feldman, Bernard E. Harcourt, Philip Gossett, and W. J. T. Mitchell.

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