Religion as the Site of the Colonial Encounter

in The Culture of Sectarianism

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2000 | ISBN: 9780520218451
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520922792 | DOI:
Religion as the Site of the Colonial Encounter

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This chapter reconstructs the history of modern sectarian identity in Ottoman Mount Lebanon, which provided the stage on which cataclysmic violence in 1860 was enacted. It notes that the story begins many years earlier, when local Lebanese society was opened to Ottoman and European discourses of reform which made religion the site of colonial encounter between a self-styled “Christian” West and what it saw as its perennial adversary, an “Islamic” Ottoman Empire. The chapter explains that this encounter profoundly altered the meaning of religion in the multiconfessional society of Mount Lebanon because it emphasized sectarian identity as the only viable marker of political reform and the only authentic basis for political claims. It further explains that the story is one of the symbiosis between indigenous traditions and practices and Ottoman modernization, which became paramount in reshaping the political self-definition of each community along religious lines.

Keywords: modern sectarian identity; Ottoman Mount Lebanon; reform; religion; colonial encounter; Christian West; Islamic Ottoman Empire

Chapter.  5608 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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