Sectarianism and modernity are often understood as diametrically opposed phenomena. Subnational ethnic and religious identities, it is said, prevent the development of modern politics, cultures, and social affinities. And yet, sectarian differences in states like Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq seems to be a necessary condition for their coherence as modern political entities. What if sectarianism, which undermines the secular national ideal of universal citizenship, is instead understood as distinctly modern, its emergence dating no further back than the nineteenth century? This course examines the intertwined genealogy of sectarianism and modernity, paying particular attention to the administration of law, religion, and society in three phases of historical development: the late Ottoman Empire, the French and British Mandate periods, and the postcolonial present. Under what conditions did sectarianism emerge as a meaningful analytic category for the study of Middle East politics? What legal innovations have constituted and transformed the meaning and practice of sectarianism over time? In what ways do global sovereignties contribute to the persistence of sectarian identities? Why does sectarianism endure?
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Assistant Professor Oraby.