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Title: The shifting salience of sectarianism in Lebanon, 2000-2010
Author: Majed, Rima
ISNI:       0000 0004 6496 1388
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis addresses the question of the shift in the sectarian framing of political conflict and violence in Lebanon by focusing on the period between 2000 and 2010. Lebanon represents an interesting case where the saliencies of sectarian dichotomies have been drastically remodelled in only a few years following the Hariri assassination in 2005. Whereas most studies focus on long-term ethnic and sectarian conflicts, few have addressed the issue of fast remodelling of sectarian divisions in times of political turmoil. How do sectarian schisms shift in a short period of time? Why do some political changes affect sectarian dichotomies and not others? What factors can push some people to take part in clashes framed as sectarian violence? In short, how does political closure happen along sectarian lines? In order to answer these questions, this thesis uses a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods to disentangle the relationship between political change and sectarianism. Building on the social movement literature, it argues that street mobilisations, understood as peaceful or violent collective action, are important mechanisms through which political conflict can assume sectarian overtones. It relies on a compiled dataset of protest events that occurred in Beirut between 2000 and 2010, and applies network analysis techniques in order to study coalition formations and shifts in alliances. This analysis is combined with semi-structured interviews with a sample of 29 residents of Beirut neighbourhoods that witnessed violent clashes in 2007/8. The analysis of my data suggests that the Hariri assassination marked a turning point in the dynamics of contentious politics in Lebanon, and acted as a catalyst for the emergence and consolidation of new coalitions and sectarian dichotomies. The study argues that sectarian political parties are the main channels through which political and sectarian depictions become interchangeable. It suggests that in order for a political shift to be understood in sectarian terms, two main factors need to be taken into account: (i) the competing political parties should represent sectarian communities that are able to compete demographically (in terms of size), and (ii) the competing parties should be able to represent the majority of their sectarian communities (intra-sectarian homogeneity). The analysis of my qualitative data explores the mechanisms at work during periods of collective violence, and shows that drivers such as peer pressure, neighbourhood-level networks, material grievances, pleasure in agency, ideology and previous fighting experience seem to explain individual decisions to participate in collective violence more than sectarian hatred. In fact, rather than being the primary cause of the violence, sectarian cleavages seem to have been crystallised by the 2007/8 episodes of violence. Consequently, this thesis concludes that whereas the conflict in Lebanon today is often understood and framed in sectarian terms, a closer analysis suggests that the conflict at a macro level is essentially political and its implications at the micro level can best be understood beyond the notion of sectarianism.
Supervisor: Biggs, Michael Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Islam and politics--Lebanon ; Protest movements--Lebanon ; Social movements--Lebanon ; Lebanon--Politics and government--1990- ; Political violence--Lebanon