War, Revolt and Rupture: The Historical Sociology of the Current Crisis in the Middle East

BISA HS Workshop: September 9, Queen Mary University of London

The Middle East is experiencing one of its deepest crises since its emergence in the aftermath of the First World War and the partition of the Ottoman Empire. Following the US-led war on Iraq over a decade ago the region has witnessed a nuclear stand-off between Iran and the West, a concatenation of popular revolts, the outbreak of civil wars in Iraq and Syria, the rise of Kurdish autonomous regions, the exacerbation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of Turkey’s ‘neo-Ottomanist’ project, an assertive shift in foreign policy of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and the declaration of a Caliphate by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. These tumultuous events are reshaping the geopolitics and the political economy of the region with profound implications for the global order.

Much of the existing analyses of these momentous events and the wider regional crisis they form and represent focus on the sectarian form of the conflicts – seen as a struggle over regional hegemony between Sunni and Shi’a states and their regional allies, or the crisis of the colonially constructed regional states-system. In relatively short supply are more theoretically informed and historically grounded accounts of international, regional, and domestic social, political, and economic causes, courses and likely consequences of these profound transformations.

This workshop seeks to address this lacuna and invites papers that approach the current structural crisis of the Middle East from the perspectives of historical sociology. We are particularly, but not solely, interested in contributions that:

  • Explore/demonstrate intellectual potentials of historical sociological approaches to the study of the region in the context of the crisis
  • Assess the place of the crisis in the current conjuncture of world politics
  • Provide (international) historical sociological accounts of the origins and evolution of the crisis
  • Reflect on the potential outcomes of the crisis and their domestic, regional and international implications
  • Investigate the (international) political economy of the crisis
  • Evaluate the prospects for emancipatory politics in the region.

The workshop is sponsored by the BISA Historical Sociology and IR Working Group https://historicalsociology.wordpress.com/. Thanks to funding from BISA, the workshop is free and catering will be provided. Both paper givers and research students will also receive a limited travel allowance.

We intend to compile a selection of the papers for publication after the workshop.


9:00 – 9:15 Coffee

9:15 – 9:30 Introduction & Welcoming notes

9:30 – 11:00 Panel 1

  1. Karel Cerny (CEU): Great Middle Eastern Instability: Structural Roots 1960-2010
  2. Umut Özkırımlı & Spyros A. Sofos (Lund): Reading the Arab Revolutions as a “Moment”: A Collective Frame Approach
  3. Raymond Hinnebusch (St. Andrews): An Historical Sociology Approach to Understanding Post-Uprising Divergence in the Arab States

11:00– 11:15 Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:45 Panel 2

  1. Jamie Allinson (Edinburgh): The Geopolitics of Counter-Revolution in the Middle East
  2. Hilary Kalmbach (Sussex): Islam, Culture, and the Egyptian Project of Modernity
  3. Toby Dodge (LSE): Understanding the Iraqi State Over the Longue Durée: Ideational, Institutional and Coercive Paths to State Building

12:45 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30 Panel 3

  1. Abbas Vali (Boğaziçi): The Rupture in the Structure of Sovereign Domination and the Challenge of Rojava in Syria
  2. Clemens Hoffmann (Bilkent): Historical Sociology as Geo-Political Ecology: The ‘Nature’ of the Kurdish Spring in the Middle East
  3. Derya Göçer (METU): The Stories of the ‘International’ in Popular Revolts: The Case of Gezi Resistance

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee

15:45 – 16:45 Roundtable

16:45 – 17:00 Concluding Remarks

19:00 Dinner