Abstract

Especially since 2001, the multiple crises inflaming the wider Middle East have dramatically altered the geopolitical equilibriums of a region that has always played a crucial role in the international arena. Affected by heightening levels of violence and widespread destabilization, the area became increasingly associated with processes of radicalization and socio-political fragmentation allegedly destined to redefine the very foundations of a system whose roots can be traced back to the end of the Great War. The arch of crises that came to bisect the region largely contributed to projecting the image of a Middle Eastern region “endemically” marred by divisions and instability and destined for partition according to apparently undeniable ethno-sectarian fault lines. In this framework, Middle Eastern ethno-linguistic and religious diversity has become the focal point of two different and opposite arguments. On the one hand, diversity has been considered the victim of increasing polarization, manipulated and politicized in order to impose specific political agendas. On the other, it has been listed as one of the drivers or sources of present instability in a region experiencing its own Thirty Years War, as Europe did in the 16th century. The chapter aims to take a distance from both understandings, reconsidering the contemporary history of the Middle East and of state- and nation-building in the region based on the image of multiple geographies. Instead of again proposing the idea of the Middle East as a mosaic, the chapter aims to offer an engaged account of the role of diversity in the region, analyzing the multiple features that have characterized and composed it. Through the idea of multiple geographies, the chapter will explain why diversity in the Middle East has always played a crucial role. The Middle East stands out not only for its diversity per se, but because the features that compose and define its diversity and multivocality often strongly intertwine and overlap, giving birth to social fabrics far more complex and branched than usually represented. In this spirit, after delineating some of the main features defining the Middle East diverse socio-political fabric, the chapter focuses on contested visions of state and nation that have developed especially in the Arab world since the turn of the 20th century. It analyzes the most prominent features and elements of a debate waving across supra-national, trans-national and national visions and orientations of how to represent and organize diversity in accordance to a modern state framework. On these bases, the third part of the analysis places the above-mentioned dynamics in a historical continuum tracking its roots in the post first world war order. The chapter then concludes by showing how a more precise understanding of the Middle East’s diversity, of its significance and role can help to demystify today’s sectarian narratives and tackle instability and violence in the region. By focusing on contested visions of State and nation and the role diversity plays within these fields, the analysis does not intend to downplay the influence exerted by geopolitics over the regional scenario. Especially since 2001, the wider Middle East has become the epicenter of a heightening competition between (and among) state and non-state actors able to project their influence well beyond the boundaries of their polities and to alter the equilibriums of the area in ways and modalities that would have been impossible even to conceive only a few years before. While geopolitical dynamics have always played a crucial role in the area, their incidence escalated dramatically during the course of the 21st century. Far from being confined to the mere security level, these phenomena invested the socio-political, economic and even cultural dimensions favoring a growing interplay among the international, regional, national and local domains
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMigrants and Religion: Paths, Issues, and Lenses. A Multidisciplinary and Multi-Sited Study on the Role of Religious Belongings in Migratory and Integration Processes
Pages143-174
Number of pages32
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Ethno-religious communities
  • Geopolitics
  • Middle East
  • Sectarianism
  • forced migrations

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'No Size Fits All. Diversity, State and Politics in the Contemporary Middle East'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this