New Books in the Arts & Sciences

Celebrating Recent Work by Elizabeth Povinelli & Lila Abu-Lughod

Tuesday, October 18, 2016  6:30pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


New Books in the Arts & Sciences
         —panel discussions celebrating recent work by the Columbia Faculty

Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society, 30th Anniversary Edition, with a New Afterword by Lila Abu-Lughod

​First published in 1986, Lila Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments has become a classic ethnography in the field of anthropology. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Abu-Lughod lived with a community of Bedouins in the Western Desert of Egypt for nearly two years, studying gender relations, morality, and the oral lyric poetry through which women and young men express personal feelings. The poems are haunting, the evocation of emotional life vivid. But Abu-Lughod’s analysis also reveals how deeply implicated poetry and sentiment are in the play of power and the maintenance of social hierarchy. What begins as a puzzle about a single poetic genre becomes a reflection on the politics of sentiment and the complexity of culture.
This thirtieth anniversary edition includes a new afterword that reflects on developments both in anthropology and in the lives of this community of Awlad 'Ali Bedouins, who find themselves increasingly enmeshed in national political and social formations. The afterword ends with a personal meditation on the meaning—for all involved—of the radical experience of anthropological fieldwork and the responsibilities it entails for ethnographers.

Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism by Elizabeth Povinelli

​In Geontologies Elizabeth A. Povinelli continues her project of mapping the current conditions of late liberalism by offering a bold retheorization of power. Finding Foucauldian biopolitics unable to adequately reveal contemporary mechanisms of power and governance, Povinelli describes a mode of power she calls geontopower, which operates through the regulation of the distinction between Life and Nonlife and the figures of the Desert, the Animist, and the Virus. Geontologies examines this formation of power from the perspective of Indigenous Australian maneuvers against the settler state. And it probes how our contemporary critical languages—anthropogenic climate change, plasticity, new materialism, antinormativity—often unwittingly transform their struggles against geontopower into a deeper entwinement within it. A woman who became a river, a snakelike entity who spawns the fog, plesiosaurus fossils and vast networks of rock weirs: in asking how these different forms of existence refuse incorporation into the vocabularies of Western theory Povinelli provides a revelatory new way to understand a form of power long self-evident in certain regimes of settler late liberalism but now becoming visible much further beyond.


  • Author

    Elizabeth A. Povinelli

    Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology

    Columbia University

  • Author

    Lila Abu-Lughod

    Joseph L. Buttenwieser Professor of Social Science

    Columbia University

  • Discussant

    Vanessa Agard-Jones

    Assistant Professor of Anthropology

    Columbia University

  • Discussant

    Anupama Rao

    Associate Professor of History

    Barnard College

  • Discussant

    João Biehl

    Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology and Woodrow Wilson School Faculty Associate

    Princeton University


By Semester