News from Dec 17, 2018
We are happy to announce that Einstein Stiftung Berlin is funding Seda Altug’s project on ‘Making of Modern Syria: Sect, Land, Politics and Violence (1915- 1939)' in the Einstein Junior Scholarship for Academic Freedom programme. Dr Altug will be a postdoctoral researcher at BGSMCS in 2019.
Description of the Project:
Making of Modern Syria: Sect, Land, Politics and Violence (1915- 1939)
Media coverage of, and even expert commentary on Syria since the beginning of the uprising (2011) has not often been able to go beyond some basic themes: the regime is a brutal dictatorship, minorities support the regime, the rebels are Islamist extremists, there is a sectarian Sunni-Shia divide that goes back centuries and the conflict is a proxy war. The inability to adequately assess and explain the situation - and the corresponding failure of Western policy responses - reflects, among other things, a lack of adequate historical knowledge on the deeper patterns of the relationship between state and society in Syria. These were shaped above all in the state-formation of modern Syria under French control (1921- 1946) and in the ways the independent Syrian state developed out of the practices of its French colonial predecessor.
This project examines that history.
More specifically, it aims to investigate the politics of ethno-religious difference in French-Syria through the colonial state's practices of governing land. Governing of land seems to be a pure political-economic issue, but it is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of political order and management of populations. Taking land as a site through which the effects of the colonial, national and local power relations are traced, this research aims to describe the course of this multidimensional process of governance and the ways in which the significance of religion/ethnicity is transformed in the meantime.
At a global level, I examine these dimensions of (re)production of political and cultural difference, land and state-making with reference to broader trans-imperial practices. On a local level, I highlight Syrian agency in the Mandate situation. The colonial state’s practices created sites of negotiation and conflict within Syrian society as well as between the state and the society, shaping social processes, interests and cleavages as well as state practices that continue to be relevant up to today.