SWAR 

Sectarianism in the Wake of the Arab Revolts

The SWAR project, which is funded by the Danish Social Science Research Council, takes its point of departure in the recognition of the fact that a Shia/Sunni divide has become a significant factor in Middle East politics. Against this background, it examines the causes, nature and consequences of the so-called ‘new sectarianism’ in the post-Arab Revolts Middle East based on an analytical approach inspired by historical sociology and constructivism. Couched in an interdisciplinary framework, it draws on and combines theories and methods from Political Science, Anthropology, Islamic Studies, and Middle East Studies.

The project is organized into four work packages: 

  • The first work package addresses a range of (meta)theoretical questions and challenges related to an inter-disciplinary study of sectarianism, including how sectarianism is conceptualized in different disciplinary contexts and outside/inside of academia; whether Shia/Sunni sectarianism is different from other forms of sectarianism (e.g. Catholicism/Protestantism) and whether Shia/Sunni sectarianism outside of the Middle East (e.g. South Asia) is different from within this region; to what extent sectarianism can be compared to other forms of identity politics and also grasped with general theories about collective identities; what is the role of religion in sectarian politics etc.
  • The purpose of the second work package is to characterize and map the current sectarian surge or what some observers have coined as the ‘new sectarianism' and to put it into comparative historical perspective. This implies a mapping of where, to what extent and in which forms (banal, instrumentalist, radical sectarianism) sectarianism has manifested itself in the Middle East today; as a way of examining its allegedly ‘new-ness,’ it also involves a historical comparison of how sectarianism has manifested itself in earlier historical eras.
  • The third work package focuses on explanations for why sectarianism has (re)emerged as an important factor in Middle East politics after the Arab revolts. Based on the view that is it necessary to go beyond both primordialist and instrumentalist explanations of sectarianism, it explores the relative importance and the specific role of ideational/material elements, historical/contemporary factors and the role of dynamics at global/regional/state/society levels.
  • The fourth work package concerns consequences of the new sectarianism: whether and how it impacts different dimensions of Middle East politics, including state(de)formation, regional patterns of conflict and cooperation, prospects for democratization and authoritarian regime survival strategies and finally transformations of the ‘Islamist scene'.

News


Workshop
A workshop on "IR Theory and the new sectarian Middle East" will be held at Aarhus University the 22nd of June. Read more here

Raymond Hinnebusch revisits the department

Professor of international relations and Middle East politics Raymond Hinnebusch will be in Aarhus from 1st of June to 31st of August 2017. Read more here.

International Research Seminar
An international research seminar with the title 'Sectarian Materialities' will be held at Aarhus University and Moesgaard from 30th to 31st of May 2017. Read more here.