Making Sense of ISIS and Sectarianism

THU, NOV 19, 2015 (1:07:38)

When a political regime rapidly collapses, as happened in Iraq in 2003, leaving society in near total chaos, what happens next? Why were Shiites more successful in limiting violence and providing public goods than Sunnis were in Iraq? Why have many women in the Middle East resorted to increasingly conservative modes of dress in recent decades?

Many of the current conflicts in the Middle East have been attributed to sectarianism, a politicization of ethnic and religious identity. From the crisis in Iraq and Syria to the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the struggle between Sunni and Shiites groups for dominance is tearing apart the region and shows no signs of abating. However, for all the religious discourse permeating the conflict, much of its roots are political, not religious. How does sectarianism fit into a larger narrative of the Middle East? How have governments manipulated sectarian differences? And finally, what is the U.S. doing about it?

+ BIO: David Siddhartha Patel

David Siddhartha Patel is a Junior Research Fellow at Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Patel’s research focuses on social order, religious authority, and identity in the contemporary Middle East. He conducted independent field research in post-Hussein Iraq on the role of mosques and clerical networks in generating order after state collapse. At the Crown Center, he is completing a book tentatively titled "Order Out of Chaos: Islam, Information, and Social Order in Iraq." He has also conducted comparative research on the transnational spread of protests during the so-called Arab Spring and on changes in the support base of Islamist movements. Prior to joining the Center, Patel was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University. He received his B.A. from Duke University in economics and political science and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in political science. He studied Arabic in Lebanon, Yemen, Morocco, and Jordan.