SAR Salon – Making Sense of Suicide Bombing: A Discussion with Professor David B. Edwards

Event, Eric S. Dobkin Boardroom, School for Advanced Research, 660 Garcia Street, Santa Fe

Thursday, July 20, 2017, 10:00 am–12:00 pm

Caravan of Martyrs, by David B. EdwardsCaravan of Martyrs, by David B. EdwardsCaravan of Martyrs, by David B. Edwards

Free to SAR members at the Chaco level and higher. Limited to 25 people. Please RSVP to Lindsay Archuleta at 505-954-7231 or archuleta[at]sarsf.org.

Suicide bombing has become a numbingly frequent expression of political struggle, most notably in the Middle East. The rise of suicide bombing by political insurgents is generally associated with Shiite rebels in Lebanon (1983) and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. However, it was in Afghanistan and Iraq that suicide bombing became perfected as a tactic of irregular warfare beginning in 2004. Despite its frequency, suicide bombing remains a mystery in human terms. What drives people to sacrifice their lives to kill innocent civilians and, more rarely, enemy combatants?

David Edwards, a cultural anthropologist who has lived in and studied Afghanistan for decades, offers answers to this question in his new book, Caravan of Martyrs (University of California Press, 2017). Weaving his analysis around changing ideas of sacrifice among Muslims in Afghanistan, Edwards tries to show how suicide bombing has come to make sense to those who participate in it.

SAR will sponsor an informal salon discussion with David Edwards that will be moderated by SAR’s president, Michael Brown. This will be the first of what we hope will be many such conversations that will give a small number of participants an opportunity to engage directly with experts on topics of broad public interest.

Participants will be sent a brief selection from Edwards’s book prior to the event so that they can familiarize themselves with the author’s arguments. After a brief background presentation by Professor Edwards, the event will be opened to informal discussion.


Dave Edwards with mujahideenDave Edwards with mujahideenKunar Province, Afghanistan, 1995.Dave Edwards with mujahideenKunar Province, Afghanistan, 1995.ABOUT THE SPEAKER. David B. Edwards is the Lambert Professor of Anthropology at Williams College. He spent an academic year at SAR as an NEH resident scholar in 1998-99. At SAR he completed Before Taliban (2002), a book that garnered considerable public attention for its explanation of how the Taliban emerged from the collapse of Afghan civil society in the wake of Soviet invasion.


SAR SALON. SAR Salon is one facet of a new SAR program initiative that will bring to Santa Fe leading thinkers whose work challenges convention or addresses issues of public concern. The lectures and informal discussions associated with this initiative will complement SAR’s longstanding support of research on the history and cultures of the American Southwest. Additional information on this initiative will be made available in the fall of 2017.


If you are not a member at this level and would to join to be eligible to participate, please join or upgrade here.

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