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Sectarianism, Identity, and Conflict in Islamic Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Sectarianism, Identity, and Conflict in Islamic Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
Conference at George Mason University
{{langos=='en'?('05/05/2016' | todate):('05/05/2016' | artodate)}} - issue 3.2

Composed of a keynote address delivered by Ussama Makdisi of Rice University and five panels, the conference brought together more than twenty academics and policy experts to discuss sectarianism. Conference organizers underlined that they wanted to capture the complexity of sectarianism as a tempo-historically specific phenomenon, rather than a static expression that is explained away as an expression of religious dogmatism.

The organizers encouraged the participants to bring forth nuanced, contextually and conceptually rich analysis rather than sectarianism’s more simplistic explanations that dominate most popular as well as some media and academic analysis today. The conference aimed to unpack sectarian framing of identities and conflicts and expose forced dichotomies created around the concept. For more on the conference, see here


Conference Program

View the full conference program booklet with speaker bios here

Friday April 15 – Merten Hall Room 1201

Keynote Address

  • Ussama Makdisi (Rice University), “The Invention of Sectarianism in the Modern Middle East”

Saturday April 16 – Merten Hall Room 1201

Panel I: Historical and Theoretical Approaches to Sectarianism

  • Mark Farha (Doha Institute for Graduate Studies), “Double Denial and the Exploitation of Sectarianism in the Middle East: Sources, Symptoms, and Solutions” 
  • Sumaiya Hamdani (George Mason University), “The Self, the Sect, and the State: Religious Difference Within Islam”
  • Tariq al-Jamil (Swarthmore College), “Sectarianism, Pre-Modern Islamic History and the Bequest of Orientalism”
  • Jeffrey Kenney (DePauw University), “Sectarian Politics and Weak States in the Middle East: The Return of the Kharijites in Egypt"

 Panel II: Sectarian Issues in the Contemporary Middle East

  • Alex Henley (Georgetown University), “Lebanon’s Powerful Religious Leaders: What Do They Tell Us 
    About Sectarianism?”
  • Abdulaziz Sachedina (George Mason University), “A’zamiyya and Najaf: Sunni-Shi’a Cooperation in Rebuilding Iraq”
  • Joas Wagemakers (Utrecht University), “Anti-Shi’ism Without Shi’ites: Salafi Sectarianism in Jordan”

Panel III: Sectarianism & the Shi’ite Minority in Saudi Arabia

  • Natana Delong-Bas (Boston College), “Between Conflict and Coexistence: Saudi Shi’a as Subjects, Objects, and Agents in Wasatiyya and Wataniyya”
  • Toby Matthiessen (Oxford University), “Who Profits from Sectarianism in Saudi Arabia?”

 Panel IV: Conflict, Sectarianism, and ISIS in Iraq and Syria: Causes and Prospects

  • Bassam Haddad (George Mason University), “The Rise, Expansion, and Limits of the ISIS Phenomenon in Iraq & Syria”
  • Mouin Rabbani (Arab Studies Institute), “Understanding the ISIS Phenomenon: A Research and Policy Agenda”
  • Fanar Haddad (National University of Singapore), “The Impact of ISIS on Sectarian Relations and Nationalism in Iraq”
  • Christopher Anzalone (McGill University), “In the Shadow of the ‘State’: Modern Conflicts and the Mobilizing and Contesting of Sacred History”
  • Ali Sada (Innovative Communication and Strategies), “The Roots of ISIS Media Narratives”
  • Nir Rosen (Humanitarian Dialogue Center), “A Look at the New Age of Sectarianism in Iraq and Syria, 2003-2016”

Sunday April 17 – Merten Hall Room 1201 

Panel V: Sectarian Rhetoric and Politics in Africa, Indonesia, and Yemen

  • Mara Leichtman (Michigan State University), “Reflections on Sectarianism and Shi’i Identity in Senegal and West Africa”
  • Diana Coleman (Arizona State University), “Archipelagic Anxieties: Sectarian Tensions in Indonesia”
  • Charles Schmitz (Towson University), “Zaydi Wahhabis and Other Yemen Anomalies”