Rethinking Sectarianism in the Middle East

with Ussama Makdisi

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

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"Sectarianism" is a a slippery term, now used to describe everything from Saudi Arabian foreign policy to the daily functioning of Lebanese politics to the rhetoric of the Islamic State. In this episode, historian Ussama Makdisi takes on the history of both the term "sectarian" and the kinds of communal political divides it is often used to describe in the late Ottoman Empire and the 20th century Middle East, reflecting on his former work and offering a preview of his forthcoming scholarship. 

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Ussama Makdisi is Professor of History and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University. He is the author of Faith Misplaced: the Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001 (Public Affairs, 2010), Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press, 2008), and the Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000). (see faculty page)
Susanna Ferguson is a doctoral candidate in Middle Eastern History at Columbia University, where she focuses on the history of women and gender in the Arab world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (

Episode No. 200

Release Date: 13 September 2015
Location: Yeniköy, Istanbul
Editing and production by Chris Gratien
Musical excerpts from Turnalar Turnalar - Darulelhan HeyetiHarmandali - Recep Efendi, Cemal Efendi 
Images via US Library of Congress
Bibliography courtesy of Susanna Ferguson


Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Campos, Michelle.  Ottoman Brothers: Muslim, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011.

Der Matossian, Bedross. Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire. 2014.

Greene, Molly. A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Kechriotis, Vangelis. “Ottomanism with a Greek Face: Karamanlı Greek Orthodox Diaspora at the End of the Ottoman Empire.” In Mediterranean Diasporas: Politics and Ideas in the Long 19th Century, edited by Maurizio Isabella and Konstantina Zanou, 189-204. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.

Makdisi, Ussama. Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.

_____. The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History and Violence in Ottoman Lebanon. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

Masters, Bruce Alan. Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: The Roots of Sectarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

White, Benjamin T. The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East: The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.


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