[P3137] Moments of Politicized Violence; Nationalism, Sectarianism and Memory in the Modern Middle East

Created by Orit Bashkin
Monday, 11/19/12 5:00pm


In a recent essay on Iraqi Jewish identity, noted sociologist Sami Zubaida spoke of his reconstruction of religious identities in the Middle East as "an injection of a universalist outlook" which goes beyond tales of victimization and engages with issues of culture and memory in a way that subverts ultranationalist and tribal histories. Taking Zubaida's call for a new research agenda, our panel looks at instances of politicized violence in the Middle East, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We seek to read these instances of politicized violence and discuss the ways in which their analysis could inform our thinking about imperial identities, nationalism, and colonialism in the modern Middle East. Any depiction of these instances of politicized violence poses a semantic problem to the historians concerning the ways in which he or she writes about these events: many of the words used to depict such violent moments, such as "massacres", "pogrom," "riots," "resistance" have important ideological and political meanings. Our panel will try to read against, and beyond, national histories and the logic of the colonial archive in order to explore the reasons behind these moments of politicized violence, and likewise pay heed to the meanings ascribed to each moment by various political actors. We will explore cases of violence instigated by states, as well as cases in which the state collapsed and all social boundaries were dissolved. Consequently, we will try to unpack many national silences regarding the social and economic tensions embodied in these events, and reflect on their implications with respect to visions of pluralism, binationalism, integration, and nationalism. Finally, we will also study the fields of power related to the violence: who had the power to write, and thus represent, such events? What voices were silenced in these processes? How can historians reconstruct subaltern voices in their analyses of the events? We hope that our deliberations about sectarian relationships in the Middle East will challenge the notion that that sectarian relationships in the Middle East represent a primordial battle between various religious and ethnic communities, by emphasizing that sectarian realities are also constructed, and manipulated by various sociopolitical actors, most often the state. Our panel will cover such diverse location as Iraq, Syria, and the Ottoman Empire. We will try to address how the findings of our talks are relevant to present conflicts in the Middle East we witness today.





Orit Bashkin

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Zainab Saleh

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

Julia Phillips Cohen

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