Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

The Bifurcation of America (and Other Countries)

6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
Portland Campus
Musa al-Gharbi
Free and open to the public. There will be a reception at 5 p.m. in the Art Gallery

One camp in America describes the U.S. as awash in racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, and other forms of degradation and exclusion while another camp claims that “identity politics” is tearing the country apart. Meanwhile, socioeconomic inequality has been growing rapidly in the United States and around much of the world—further accelerated in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is growing distrust of scientists, journalists, and government bureaucrats, an erosion of faith in U.S. institutions and civic processes, and (at least apparently) growing disagreement about basic facts. Al-Gharbi will argue that these are not separate stories, but rather fronts in a broader conflict between an ascendant constellation of elites whose wealth and influence derive from the production and manipulation of symbols and rhetoric, images and narratives, data and analysis, ideas and abstractions, versus a growing number of “other” Americans who feel their values, priorities, and interests are unrepresented in the new social order. While making this case, al-Gharbi will upend conventional wisdom about the fault-lines driving the results of the 2016, 2018, and 2020 political elections—as well as the forthcoming midterms in November 2022. 


Musa al-Gharbi is a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University. His research focuses on how people talk about, think about, and produce a shared understanding of social phenomena—from national security and foreign policy issues, to domestic law enforcement, to U.S. political races, to socioeconomic and cultural inequalities. His first book, We Have Never Been Woke: Social Justice Discourse, Inequality and the Rise of a New Elite is forthcoming with Princeton University Press. Al-Gharbi is also a columnist with The Guardian, and has previously published essays in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Nation, New Republic, and many other outlets. He is regularly interviewed by national and international media to contextualize current events, including spots on NPR, Voice of America, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and USA Today.

Assigned Reading


WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103
United States

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