Much of Western culture and religious beliefs are grounded in a bifurcated notion of an epic power struggle between dueling forces, often defined as “good” and “evil.” This underlying premise influences how we parent, how we practice faith, how we choose vocations, and how we vote. In this episode Jamsheed Choksy, chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, provides surprising historical context for how the West’s construction of these binary elements evolved.
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About Key Conversations

Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​


Jamsheed Choksy, Indiana University 

Jamsheed Choksy is Distinguished Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. His writings and lectures explore why human existence is viewed as a struggle between good and evil, and how beliefs and practices shape people’s lives and actions. He is a leading authority on the Arab conquest of Iran, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and Central Asia, the spread of Islam, and the impact of faith on politics, international relations, and security. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities, and has held fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), National Endowment for the Humanities (Washington, DC), Guggenheim Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford), American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Religion. His many publications include Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society.

Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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