The description is submitted to:


Session C5035 (Everyday Life of Sectarianism in the Middle East: Ambivalent Articulations of “Sectarian” Difference and the “Other”), 2017
Sectarianism is about how “differences” are socially constructed. Sectarianism, as deployed in Lebanon and many Middle Eastern countries, is about socially constructed religious “differences.” Differentiation, or “difference-making,” is a social process which operates through the everyday– in systematic and contradictory ways. The nature of the “everyday” is that it shifts and changes “everyday.” The “everyday” is, by nature, situational. Since my original field work on the politicization of religious sects in Lebanon (1971-73) and later my1978 co-edited book on Muslim-Christian conflicts (Westview), I have been continually chastened by political realities. I had always understood sectarianism must be contextualized within state, regional, and global political projects. On the ground, the everyday taught me that religion matters, that religious differences matter–but how they matter, to whom they matter, and what “difference” it makes that they matter is a moving matter. Everyday ambivalences on sectarian identity and relations can be uncertainty on the part of the actors, and it can be strategic. Regardless of the nature of sectarian ambivalence, it has material consequences–politically material consequences, economically material consequences, and socially material consequences. This intervention engages in a conversation based on forty years of field work in Lebanon– urban and rural, working classes and middle/upper classes, focusing on institutions and focusing on individuals– to understand the everyday ambivalences of and towards sectarianism and its very real material consequences.