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Ussama Makdisi on The Invention of Sectarianism in the Modern Middle East

This keynote address delivered by  Ussama Makdisi unpacks sectarian framing of identities and conflicts and expose forced dichotomies created around the concept. Makdisi's address was given at the conference named "Sectarianism, Identity, and Conflict in Islamic Contexts: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives," held at George Mason University between April 15-17 of 2016. The conference brought together more than twenty academics and policy experts to discuss sectarianism, particularly in an attempt 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 complete audio of the conference's five panels can be found at Status/الوضع.

Ussama Makdisi is Professor of History and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University. In 2012-2013, Makdisi was an invited Resident Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin).  In April 2009, the Carnegie Corporation named Makdisi a 2009 Carnegie Scholar as part of its effort to promote original scholarship regarding Muslim societies and communities, both in the United States and abroad.

Professor Makdisi is the author of Faith Misplaced: the Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001 (Public Affairs, 2010).  His previous books include Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press, 2008), which was the winner of the 2008 Albert Hourani Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association, the 2009 John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association, and a co-winner of the 2009 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize given by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. Makdisi is also the author of The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000) and co-editor of Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana University Press, 2006). He has published widely on Ottoman and Arab history as well as on U.S.-Arab relations and U.S. missionary work in the Middle East.  Among his major articles are “Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: An Interpretation of Brief History” which appeared in the Journal of American History and “Ottoman Orientalism” and “Reclaiming the Land of the Bible: Missionaries, Secularism, and Evangelical Modernity” both of which appeared in the American Historical Review. Professor Makdisi has also published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and in the Middle East Report.

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The photography page aims to provide a space for reflection on photography in its various forms and uses in the Middle East. We showcase the work of photographers active in the region and cultivate critical thinking about photographic practices, representations, and history. The page publishes photo essays, articles, interviews, reviews and more. It also provides information on photographic archives, agencies, and institutions, exhibits, events, and publications.