Fitna: Civil War or Sectarian Conflict? Understanding Political Violence Within the Post-Mandate Arab States


Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 10:00am to 5:00pm


CMES, Room 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA

Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of History present a workshop organized by Roger Owen

This workshop aims to historicize violent conflicts in the states of the Post-Mandate territories and to understand the Arabic terminology of violence in a trans-temporal and trans-national framework.

I: The idea of civil war in Arabic. 10:00 am-12:00 pm
This session deals with the terminology and political theory of civil war in Arabic, from Muslim Andalusia to the twentieth century. How do Arabic texts describe internal conflict within states in various historical settings? Today, do we rightly use the concept of “civil war” in English when describing the current violence in Syria?

II: Civil war as delayed conflict in history or a time of postcolonial violence. 1:00-3:00 pm
This session begins with a focus on the hypothesis that the present conflict in Syria and Iraq are “delayed” wars in 20thc history through case studies. How did the Mandate system delay post-WWI conflicts in state-formation? How did external intervention change the internal actors’ behaviour? Is the hypothesis of  “delayed wars” viable? We will also look at how conflicts ended and impacted the state (in French/British colonies and protectorates) in comparative perspective within the region and globally. What comparative/historical examples do we have for ending or non-ending civil wars? How did concepts associated with the modern nation-state such as citizenship, sovereignty, or legitimacy change as a result of violence?

III: Summing up and possible conclusions. 3:30-4:30 pm

Muhamed Almaliky, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
Betty S. Anderson, History, Boston University
Melani Cammett, Government, Harvard University
William Granara, CMES & NELC, Harvard University
Sreemati Mitter, Middle East Studies, Brown University
Hugh Roberts, History, Tufts University
Nadim Shehadi, Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Tufts University

Discussion participants:
David Armitage, Harvard University
Khaled Fahmy, Harvard University/AUC
Roger Owen, Harvard University

Sponsors: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
Contact: Liz Flanagan