In recent years, a large body of popular and scholarly literature has appeared on the question of sectarianism in the Arab region. The growth in this field has been spurred by the US-led invasion of Iraq, Saudi-Iranian rivalry, and the development and intensification of conflicts that have sectarian dimensions in various countries ranging from Syria to Bahrain to Yemen. While these phenomena are of crucial importance, they have obscured and overshadowed the existence of rich and historically vigorous Arab traditions of anti-sectarianism. Since the late Ottoman period, opposition to sectarianism took a variety of explicit and implicit forms that are reflected in political practice, revolutionary action, and cultural production across the region.
This conference seeks to bring together scholars whose work reflects on different facets of Arab anti-sectarianism. How did Arab political, revolutionary, and intellectual movements, parties, and figures challenge and contest sectarianism? How did they imagine and construct different forms of political community? In what ways do historical understandings and practices of anti-sectarianism persist in the present? These are some of the questions that we hope to reflect on in this two-day conference. We aim to stimulate critical conversations that investigate the existence of alternative historical actualities and potentialities, moving beyond primordialist visions of the Arab region that presume it to be an unchanging site of inherent sectarian polarization.
This conference is being hosted by the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chairs at Rice University and the University of Houston. We invite papers from established and emerging scholars, and we envision that the conference will culminate in a major publication. We welcome interdisciplinary submissions from a variety of fields, including history, politics, anthropology, sociology, literature, and geography. Applications for travel assistance will be considered after acceptance of submissions.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words and a CV to both conference organizers by September 1, 2017 at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com