Al-Qa`ida’s Unexceptional Amir: Sounding Out Insurgency through Bin Laden’s Audiotape Collection
Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)
In the winter of 2002, over fifteen-hundred audiotapes from Osama Bin Laden’s former house in Kandahar, Afghanistan were acquired by the Cable News Network. Dr. Miller’s lecture will focus on the ways militants radicalize Islamic theology, law, and culture through recourse to the concept of al-qa`ida, in Arabic “the rule” or “base.” Contesting the idea that al-
Qaeda’s primary enemy was, in fact, America and the West, he explores how Western intelligence and terrorism experts collaborated with global media networks in managing Bin Ladin’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by Osama and those who supported his militant vision. Dr. Miller will consider the implications of his research for understanding al-Qaeda and counter terrorism efforts today.
Flagg Miller is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California at Davis. Trained as a linguistic anthropologist, Dr. Miller’s research focuses on cultures of modern Muslim reform in the Middle East and especially Yemen. His first book, The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen (2007), examined how Yemenis have used traditional poetry and new media technologies to envision a productive relationship between tribalism and progressive Muslim reform. Along with publications in a variety of professional journals, Dr. Miller has written the preface to Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak (University of Iowa Press, 2007), a collection of translated poems written by detainees at Guantánamo Bay.