The Culture of Sectarianism

Ussama Makdisi

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2000 | ISBN: 9780520218451
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520922792 | DOI:
The Culture of Sectarianism

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Focusing on Ottoman Lebanon, this book shows how sectarianism was a manifestation of modernity that transcended the physical boundaries of a particular country. It challenges those who have viewed sectarian violence as an Islamic response to Westernization or simply as a product of social and economic inequities among religious groups. The religious violence of the nineteenth century, which culminated in sectarian mobilizations and massacres in 1860, was a complex, multilayered, subaltern expression of modernization, not a primordial reaction to it. The author argues that sectarianism represented a deliberate mobilization of religious identities for political and social purposes. The Ottoman reform movement, launched in 1839, and the growing European presence in the Middle East, contributed to the disintegration of the traditional Lebanese social order based on a hierarchy that bridged religious differences. The book highlights how European colonialism and Orientalism, with their emphasis on Christian salvation and Islamic despotism, and Ottoman and local nationalisms, each created and used narratives of sectarianism as foils to their own visions of modernity, and to their own projects of colonial, imperial, and national development. It is important to our understanding of Lebanese society today, but also makes a significant contribution to the discussion of the importance of religious discourse in the formation and dissolution of social and national identities in the modern world.

Keywords: religious violence; Ottoman reform movement; European colonialism; Orientalism; national development; religious discourse; national identities

Book.  274 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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Table of Contents

Epilogue in The Culture of Sectarianism


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