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New Texts Out Now: Bashir Saade, Hizbullah and the Politics of Remembrance: Writing Nations

Bashir Saade, Hizbullah and the Politics of Remembrance: Writing Nations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Bashir Saade (BS): This book is based on my PhD dissertation and the research I had done at the time, from 2006 to 2011. I started after the July 2006 war, which was the trigger for an already growing interest in understanding the phenomenon of Hizbullah. I was mostly interested in questioning the way Hizbullah had been studied so far, and I was not satisfied with any of the paradigms that plagued the literature on the subject. My project was two-fold. One was to understand Hizbullah and the other which ...

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Anti-ISIS Music in Iraq

[Screenshot from Tagat wel Ma Tagat (2014), taken from YouTube.]

 Soon after the withdrawal of most of the US military from Iraq, bequeathing a weak and corrupt clientele government in Baghdad, ISIS took over several Iraqi small towns before occupying Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city in June 2014. The Iraqi army was already suffering from a lack of proper training and was infested with corruption. Young, mostly poor, men started mobilizing to volunteer for the army and al-Hashd al-Sha’abi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a Shi'a-dominated militia, to liberate Iraqi cities that fell to ISIS. These mobilization efforts essentially began in response to a fatwa by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the highest Shi'a ...

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New Texts Out Now: Hannes Baumann, Citizen Hariri: Lebanon's Neoliberal Reconstruction

Hannes Baumann, Citizen Hariri: Lebanon’s Neoliberal Reconstruction. Hurst: London, 2016. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Hannes Bauman (HB): On 14 February 2005 I was preparing my PhD proposal in the library of IFEAD, the French research institute in Damascus. During a break I noticed that people were huddling around a portable TV in the lobby, transmitting grainy images of a bomb explosion. It was the Beirut blast that killed former billionaire-prime minister Rafiq Hariri. A month later, on 14 March I witnessed the Beirut rally calling for a withdrawal of Syrian troops, which later gave its name to the “March 14” coalition led by Sa’d ...

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New Texts Out Now: Sami Hermez, War is Coming: Between Past and Future Violence in Lebanon

Sami Hermez, War is Coming: Between Past and Future Violence in Lebanon. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Sami Hermez (SH): I wrote this book because I felt there was a story that needed to be told of how people in states of protracted conflict live their lives with the specter of war continually hovering in the background, akin to the sounds of Beirut traffic. The potentiality of a coming war during my research in Lebanon moved in parallel with people and organizations working on preserving the memory of past war, on communal peace building initiatives, and on advocating for forms of transitional ...

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Power, Sect, and State in Syria

A. Maria A. Kastrinou, Power, Sect and State in Syria: The Politics of Marriage and Identity amongst the Druze. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2016. How has Syria, a country that was deemed “stable” by analysts only years ago, become engulfed in an utterly brutal war? Under what circumstances does intercommunal cohesion turn into sectarian strife? Focusing on the fine line between violence and intimacy in a variety of different settings in pre-war Syria, Maria Kastrinou’s Power, Sect and State in Syria addresses these questions through a multifaceted ethnographic study of Syria’s Druze community, juxtaposed with an in-depth analysis of how the pre-war Syrian ...

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How Not to Understand Egypt’s Sectarianism

[The aftermath of the explosion in a chapel inside the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Abbasiyya in Cairo, Egypt on 11 December 2016. Photo by Jonathan Rashad]

Just one day before the horrifying attack upon the Botroseyya Church in Abbasiyya that took the lives of two dozen Coptic Christians, mere steps away from Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral and Papal Headquarters, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth issued a provocative tweet. Commenting on an article in Foreign Policy he was circulating, he wrote, “Egypt’s Copts discover after backing Sisi’s coup that his persecution isn’t limited to the Muslim Brotherhood.” Needless to say, it is a rare spectacle for the head of an international human rights organization to take an entire endangered national minority to task. But what is particularly useful about Roth’s tweet in ...

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Competing Victimhoods in a Sectarian Landscape

None but the hopelessly naive or the woefully ill-informed can deny the relevance of sectarian (here meaning Sunni and Shiʿi) identities in the contemporary Middle East, particularly in the Mashriq. Equally self-evident is the centrality of victimhood in how these identities are perceived by their holders. But rather than just highlighting the blindingly obvious, my intention here is to ask, so what? To argue that the ongoing competition of sectarian victimhoods is narcissistic, perverse, and distasteful is to pass moral judgments—ones that I unhesitatingly agree with. However, on their own these are of little analytic value. As such, my purpose here is to highlight ...

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Engaging Books Series: Cornell University Press Selections on Lebanon

ENGAGING BOOKS SERIES Cornell University Press Selections On Lebanon This is a new series that features books by various publishers on a given theme, along with an excerpt from each volume. The second installment involves a selection from Cornell University Press on the theme of modern Lebanon. Other publishers' books will follow on a monthly basis.     Table of Contents Compassionate Communalism: Welfare and Sectarianism in Lebanon  By Melani Cammett About the Book About the Author In the Media Scholarly Praise Additional Information Where to Purchase Excerpt Call for Reviews  Spoils of Truce: Corruption and State-Building in ...

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مقاومة الطائفية بإعادة إنتاج منطقها

[ملصق من حملة ضد الطائفية. الصور من فرانس ٢٤]

تتنوّع ردود الفعل إزاء استشراء الطائفيّة التي نعيش زمنها وممارساتها البشعة في بلدان المنطقة بحسب المقام والمقال، وتتراوح من الإنكار المطلق، إلى نقيضه البائس. ويمعن الأخير، في بعض نسخه، في إسقاط الحاضر (والماضي القريب جداً) على التاريخ لاصطناع وتخيّل وتحديد جذور وأصول لكل ممارسة وفكرة طائفيّة يتم ترويجها الآن، فتصبح محض صدى أوتكراراً لما يُظنّ أنّه كان دائم الحدوث، وللسبب نفسه دائماً. ويختفي الفهم التاريخي وتُخْتزل الحِقَب وتختفي الحدود بينها وبين السياقات المختلفة، وتضمحل كل خصوصيّاتها لترسيخ سرديّة كبرى ثابتة وعابرة للتاريخ. والخلاصة لدى هؤلاء الذين يركنون إليها هي أن العلّة في الجوهر (وما أدرانا ما الجوهر؟) وفي النص (والثاني يقودنا دائماً إلى الأول في هذا المنطق). ...

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الشيعي والشاعر والأستاذ

ثلاثة مشاهد... ثلاثة عناوين أزمة... ثلاثة رموز لمقياس واحد هو معضلة المؤسسة والفاعل، والأدهى علامات الخور والحول الحضاري. أعدم شاعر لقصيدة، وأعدم داعية لفكرة وهشم رأس أستاذ لطلب حق، المضمون سنابك خوف ورهاب تتوسل بالسيادة المزعومة والوحدة المنشودة، وتستجدي كل معاني البطولة على الفكرة والرأي والاختلاف، إنها بحق المشهد الحضاري المعبر عنه "أسد علينا وفي الحروب نعامة " . إن طرح السؤال في هذا المقام والبحث عن جوابه أشبه بحلم وتيه وضلالة وغي، بل و تعبير يجد في الإمعان في أزمته، ما دامت البنية الحضارية والثقافية قد رسخت لكل معاني الإحباط والفشل والإفشال، وانتصبت العصبية العرقية والدينية والأمنية إلها على كلماته يحتال، يمرغ نفسه في عوالم اللذة والشبقية والرهز، تحت ...

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Saudi Arabia Gazes at Lebanon with Vengeance

[Image courtesy of Creative Commons.]

On 2 March 2016 Lebanon woke up to the news that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had declared Hizballah a terrorist organization. Many perceived this as a kind of patriarchal collective punishment. Spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the designation of Hizballah as a "terrorist" organisation can only be read as another desperate attempt by Saudi Arabia to bring its war for regional dominance to Lebanon. This form of Saudi desperation stems from the decline of its geopolitical regional hegemony, which occurred when the kingdom decided to spearhead the counterrevolution that failed to quell uprisings in neighboring Yemen and Bahrain. In addition, the kingdom’s ...

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Arabian Peninsula Media Roundup (September 29)

Emergency services during the stampede in Mina during the Hajj. image from Hecham Messoudi via twitter

[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on the Arabian Peninsula and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Arabian Peninsula Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week's roundup to by Monday night of every week.] Regional and International Relations France urges Saudi Arabia to cancel death penalty for young Shi'ite France calls on Saudi Arabia not to execute Ali Mohammad al-Nimr. Is the U.S. drone program in Yemen working? Jillian Schwedler provides a critical analysis of the US drone program in Yemen. Gulf Arabs oppose Russia ...

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“Til Sect Do You Part?” On Sectarianism and Intermarriage in Lebanon

In August 2017, a Christian man and a Muslim woman (Boutros and Marwa) made headlines when they married in Lebanon. Why? One might assume that the interreligious nature of the couple prompted this media attention. However, that was far from the case. In my current research on Lebanese social responses to interreligious and intersectarian marriages/long-term relationships, I have had no difficulty locating people to interview. Mixed couples are more common than people often imagine, and exist to varying ...

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New Texts Out Now: Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, eds. Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East

Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, eds. Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East (Oxford University Press and Hurst, 2017). Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book? Danny Postel and Nader Hashemi (DP and NH): Over the last several years, a narrative has taken root in Western media and policy circles that attributes the turmoil and violence engulfing the Middle East to supposedly ancient sectarian hatreds. “Sectarianism” has become a catchall explanation for virtually all of the ...

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Arabian Peninsula Media Roundup (May 30)

[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on the Arabian Peninsula and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Arabian Peninsula Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week's roundup to by Monday night of every week.] Regional and International Relations Saudi foreign assets keep falling in April amid heavy overseas borrowing “The Saudi Arabian central bank's ...

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Ussama Makdisi on The Invention of Sectarianism in the Modern Middle East

This keynote address delivered by  Ussama Makdisi unpacks sectarian framing of identities and conflicts and expose forced dichotomies created around the concept. Makdisi's address was given at the conference named "Sectarianism, Identity, and Conflict in Islamic Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives," held at George Mason University between April 15-17 of 2016. The conference brought together more than twenty academics and policy experts to discuss sectarianism, particularly ...

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In Memoriam: A Coptic Eucharist

The previous day, shortly after they had sipped the wine symbolic of the blood of Christ and in remembrance of the Holy Communion, an explosion tore through the church leaving the their blood in small puddles on the floor and splattered on the walls and pillars. “The time will come, that whoever kills you will think that he does God’s service." This sentence from the Gospel of John 16:2 was inscribed on a sign draped along the side of the Abbaseya Cathedral where the coffins of Sunday’s bombing ...

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New Texts Out Now: Syrie, anatomie d’une guerre civile

Adam Baczko, Gilles Dorronsoro, Arthur Quesnay. Syrie, anatomie d’une guerre civile. Paris: CNRS Editions, 2016. Jadaliyya (J) : Qu’est-ce qui vous a fait publier ce livre? Adam Baczko, Gilles Dorronsoro, Arthur Quesnay (AB, GD, AQ) : L’idée de conduire des recherches en Syrie a émergé durant l’année 2012. Menant des recherches sur d’autres guerres civiles, nous voyions se dérouler en Syrie des processus similaires à ceux que nous observions sur nos terrains respectifs ...

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Eastern Approaches

Why local tribal calculations will determine what happens outside Syria’s heartland. With much of the world’s attention on western Syria, especially the fighting in Aleppo, there has been less interest in eastern Syria, much of whose population is of Arab tribal background.   There is an increasing view that the Syrian regime and Russia feel that the conflict in Syria can be won militarily. Their focus for now is on the major western population centers stretching from Damascus to the ...

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'Shi'a Forces', 'Iraqi Army', and the Perils of Sect-Coding

Last week Twitter was the site of a few rhetorical skirmishes between Professor Juan Cole and several Iraq-watchers—myself included, albeit very briefly. The exchanges were occasioned by Cole’s use of the phrase “Shiʿa forces” to refer to the various non-Kurdish Iraqi formations (the Iraqi army included) that will lead the effort to recapture the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Rare, if not downright mythical, is the sensible Twitter debate. Alas, this incident was no exception. Nevertheless, the ...

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Sectarianism in the Gulf - A STATUS/الوضع Conversation with Toby Matthiesen

In this interview for STATUS/الوضع, host Mona Kareem speaks with Toby Matthiesen about sectarianism in the Gulf after the Arab uprisings. Toby Matthiesen gained his doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2011. He is the author of Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t (Stanford University Press, 2013), and The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism (Cambridge University Press, 2015). The interview is divided into three parts which you ...

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التمييز كأداة للتسلط والإخضاع

في بداية هذا الشهر (آذار/مارس) أعلنت وزارة الصحة في الكويت قراراً بتعميم العزل في العيادات الصحية بين المواطنين والوافدين، بعد نجاح فترة تجريبية استمرت طيلة ستة أشهر. وحسب ذلك القرار، تُخصص العيادات الصباحية للكويتيين فقــط بينما تُخصص العيادات المسائيـــة لغير الكويتيين (الذين يشكلون أكثر من ثلثيْ سكان البلاد). ويتيح القرار لمن أراد من المواطنين "حرية الاختيار بين الفترتين الصباحية والمسائية". قرار العزل بين المواطنين والوافدين هو أحد النتائج السلبية لإعادة الهيكلة الاقتصادية التي فرضت ...

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Quick Thoughts on the Political Landscape of Today's Sudan: A STATUS/الوضع Conversation with Khalid Medani

In this Quick Thoughts conversation with Status/الوضع host Bassam Haddad, Khalid Medani provides a near-comprehensive account of Sudan's recent past, its internal and external struggles, and current challenges.  Khalid Mustafa Medani is associate professor of political science and Islamic Studies at McGill University. Prior to his arrival at McGill, Medani taught at Oberlin College and Stanford University. Prof. Medani received a B.A. in Development Studies from Brown ...

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You Are Here! You Were Here! Chutzpah or Kharbata?

At the entrance of Jaffa’s Old Port, next to the old warehouses now converted into a series of harbour cafes, boutiques, and exhibition halls, the visitor is greeted with a trilingual “Jaffa Port Map”, a wall map guiding the tourist/visitor to the landmarks of the zone. Warehouse One, Warehouse Two. Central Piazza. Steimestzky. Toilets. The Lighhouse. More Toilets. Fishing Arena. At the heart of this map comes a shocking announcement. In English, “You Are Here!”. In Hebrew: Ata Nimtzah Kahn (“You Are ...

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