Understanding 'Sectarianism': Sunni-Shi'a Relations in the Modern Arab World

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This webinar was a discussion around Fanar Haddad's latest book Understanding 'Sectarianism': Sunni-Shi'a Relations in the Modern Arab World. This book seeks to move the study of modern sectarian dynamics beyond analytically paralysing dichotomies by shifting the focus away from the meaningless '-ism' towards the root: sectarian identity. How are Sunni and Shi'a identities imagined, experienced and negotiated and how do they relate to and interact with other identities? Looking at the modern history of the Arab world, Haddad seeks to understand sectarian identity not as a monochrome frame of identification but as a multi-layered concept that operates on several dimensions: religious, subnational, national and transnational. Far from a uniquely Middle Eastern, Arab, or Islamic phenomenon, a better understanding of sectarian identity reveals that the many facets of sectarian relations that are misleadingly labelled ‘sectarianism’ are echoed in intergroup relations worldwide. Fanar Haddad is a Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, Washington D.C. He has lectured in modern Middle Eastern politics at the University of Exeter, at Queen Mary, University of London and at the National University of Singapore. Prior to obtaining his PhD, Haddad was a Research Analyst at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office where he worked on radicalization and on North Africa. He has since published widely on issues relating to historic and contemporary Iraq. His main research interests are identity, historical memory, nationalism, communal conflict and minority politics. He is the author of Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity (2011). Join the conversation on Twitter using #LSEMiddleEast

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