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A Theory of Practice of Sect Identities: A Case Study of the Syrian War


Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2016 and 2019 and a massive data collection of social media entries and online comments on news article pages I have collected since 2011, this dissertation takes a bottom up approach to study how sect-identities impacted the ongoing conflict in Syria. I ask how are sect identities produced, reproduced over time, and lived at the popular level, online and offline? How do these identities evolve over time, and why do they sometimes, but only sometimes, become divisive and violent? What aspects of ordinary Syrians’ daily-life interactions have translated online, on social network sites, and what aspects have not? I propose sect habitus as an analytical tool to theorize the daily workings of sect identities, in order to understand the conditions under which sect identities become sectarian and in turn violent at the popular level.

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