[C5035] Everyday Life of Sectarianism in the Middle East: Ambivalent Articulations of “Sectarian” Difference and the “Other”

Created by Yasemin Ipek
Monday, 11/20/17 3:30pm


Sectarianism has been one of the most fraught and ambivalent terms within the body of knowledge produced on the Middle East. As much as it refers to political systems with specific institutional and legal underpinnings, the term “sectarian” is also often pejoratively used to indicate fanatical cultural forms and practices, or excessive partisanship. In seeking to understand sectarianism, recent scholarship has pointed to the significance of larger transformations related to colonialism, nationalism, modernization, imperialism, and war. Many recent analyses have argued that sectarian conflict cannot be understood as the expression of essential, immutable religious difference. Instead, scholars have turned their attention to the historical and political processes through which sectarian difference and conflict are produced, reproduced and contested across diverse communities. While these studies have provided significant insights into the deconstruction of sectarianism as an essential and ahistorical category, this conversation seeks to explore the vernacular interpretations and everyday practices of sectarianism more fully.

We offer to look at sectarian difference as a historically situated vernacular concept that is articulated in often contradictory ways by diverse actors. In unpacking everyday and vernacular enactments of “sect” and “sectarianism, this thematic conversation will attend to the linguistic and colloquial distinctions between sectarianism and other related terms, such as confessionalism, religious difference, minorities, etc. How do different groups get involved in the current “production” of sectarianism both as a narrative, discourse and practice? How do diverse local, national and transnational actors construct narratives that depict certain people, practices, and political systems as “sectarian”? How do the reconfigured relationships between state, bureaucracy and other political and religious authorities impact these processes? What types of relations do these narratives draw between sectarianism and diverse political ideologies, such as secularism, multiculturalism, communitarianism, and pluralism? What social claims are made and what social boundaries are envisioned when “sectarian” is mobilized to vilify others? What makes certain bodily, affective, visual and aesthetic practices, performances and images come to be understood as “sectarian” in nature? In pursuit of such questions, we ultimately seek to understand how “sectarianism” (dis)appears in everyday life. Understanding how sectarian difference is invoked alongside other forms of social difference such as social class, gender, urbanity and age will expand wider debates on conflict, identity, belonging and agency in the Middle East.










Suad Joseph

(University of California Davis)
2011 MESA President JOSEPH, Suad (F) Distinguished Professor, University of California, Davis, Anthropology [Department of Anthropology, University of California, One Shields Avenue Davis, CA 95616 United States; w:530-752-0745; f:530-752-8885; sjoseph@ucdavis.edu]....
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ussama Makdisi

(Rice University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Joanne Nucho

(Pomona College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Jenna Rice Rahaim

(Macalester College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Yasemin Ipek

(Stanford University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;