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Title: The nation-state form and the emergence of 'minorities' in French mandate Syria, 1919-1939
Author: White, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0000 9706 641X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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(i): The first part of this thesis questions the concept of ‘minority’, and the way it has been used to analyze French imperial policy in Syria (‘divide and rule’). Chapter 1 traces the concept’s emergence, showing that it is not self-evidently valid but rather depends on a set of wider social and political circumstances related to the existence of modern nation-states: the minorities of modern Syria cannot be mapped directly back onto the Ottoman millets or religious communities. Chapter 2 examines the term’s application in Syria between the wars: French imperial policy emphasised divisions in Syrian society, but the term ‘minority’ was only systematically attached to these divisions from the 1930s. The concept’s spread in Syria reflects its growing importance in international public discourse worldwide, as the nation-state became the standard state form after World War One. The second part of the thesis uses case studies of particular themes to show how the emergence of minorities illuminates processes of state-formation that have shaped the modern world. Chapters 3 and 4, on the question of ‘separatism’ and the definition of modern Syria’s northern border, examine the spread of effective state authority across a ‘national’ territory. This process bound culturally-divergent populations more tightly into the fabric of a centrally-controlled state, thereby constituting them as ‘minorities’. Chapter 5 examines the debate about a Franco-Syrian treaty leading to Syrian independence, showing that this made the recently-established body of international law on ‘minorities’ in newly-independent states applicable to Syria: the term only became widespread in Syria at this time. Chapter 6 looks at French efforts to reform personal status law in the later 1930s, when the restructuring, on religious lines, of the institutional relationship between the Syrian state and its population created a new uniformity within communities at the national level (one condition for their developing the sense of being ‘minorities’). It also sparked opposition from groups now claiming to represent the ‘majority’. Other Syrians, though, understood their society in different terms.
Supervisor: Rogan, Eugene Sponsor: Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: International, imperial and global history ; History ; Syria ; French Mandate ; minorities ; imperialism