Separatism and Autonomism

Benjamin Thomas White

in The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641871
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653287 | DOI:
Separatism and Autonomism

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Separatist mobilisations are commonly feared in new nation-states of the inter-war world and are commonly associated with minorities. Political mobilisations among minority populations are often assumed to be separatist in their ultimate goal. However, the connection between separatism and minorities are not always self-evident. This chapter therefore provides a critical analysis of the issue of ‘separatism’ in French-mandate Syria, in order to shed light on two related processes: the development of the concept of ‘national territory’ and the expansion of state authority within a new nation-state form. Looking at the issue from this perspective allows the questioning of some assumptions such as the assumption that certain mobilisations were ‘separatist’. The first section of the chapter contends that the question of separatism or infisāliyya was used in the nationalist press in order to create and diffuse the notion of national territory in the minds of their readers. The second section investigates several separatist or autonomist mobilisations, arguing that they were all a reaction to the increasing presence of the state at both regional and local level in Syria. The chapter uses the cases of Druze and Alawi and several others to demonstrate how the issue of ‘separatism’ illustrates both the development of a new conception of the national territory and the spread of state authority.

Keywords: separatist mobilisations; separatism; French-mandate Syria; national territory; state authority; infisāliyya; autonomist mobilisations; Druze; Alawi

Chapter.  15277 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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