CMES&History Workshop: Fitna: Civil War Or Sectarian Conflict? Understanding Political Violence Within The Post-Mandate Arab States


Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 9:00am to 12:00pm


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 and Adam Mestyan

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. In order to do this, we propose three sessions:

  1. To problematize the terminology and political theory of civil war in Arabic, from Muslim Andalusia to the twentieth century;
  2. To explore a hypothesis of “delayed wars” in post-Mandate Arab states; and,
  3. To understand the end (or non-end) of violence and its impact on state structures in the region.


The idea of civil war in Arabic
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?

A time of postcolonial violence: civil war as delayed conflict in history?
This session focuses on the hypothesis that the present conflict in Syria and Iraq are “delayed” wars in twentieth-century 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? And what of winners and losers?
The end of violence and its impact on the state
This session focuses on various scenarios how conflicts ended and impact the state in compar-ative perspective within the region and in the global context. 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 changed as a result of violence?

Muhamed Almaliky, Research Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
William Granara, Professor of the Practice of Arabic on the Gordon Gray Endowment, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations; Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Adam Mestyan, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Duke University
Sreemati Mitter, Assistant Professor of History and International and Public Affairs, Middle East Studies, Brown University
Hugh Roberts, Edward Keller Professor of North African and Middle Eastern History, Department of History, Tufts University
Nadim Shehadi, Director, Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Discussion participants:
David Armitage
Khaled Fahmy
Roger Owen

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