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Ethnic Identity, Memory, and Sites of Violence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of the Middle East
EditorsArmando Salvatore, Sari Hanafi, Keiko Obuse
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190087470
E-pub ahead of print14 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks Online
PublisherOxford University Press

King's Authors


The Arab uprisings may have contributed to a newly “sectarianized” Middle East, yet more broadly this must be recognized as part of resurgent identity politics in which state exclusion, repression, and violence occur across ethnic, religious, and political divides. The mobilization of ethnic identities—the creation of distinct collectivities based on narratives of common descent—is as evident in nationalist diatribes throughout the region as it is in minority rights campaigns for equality or cultural autonomy. Ethnic identity formation requires both mnemonic discourses and specific sites in which social memories, imaginaries, and practices can be embedded and collectively performed. This chapter examines how geographies of violence—sites of historic trauma, loss, and displacement—are reappropriated through commemorative practice and martyr memorialization, which help shape contemporary ethnic narratives of identity and resistance. From Kurds in Irbil to Copts in Egypt to Palestinians inside Israel, each community attests to spatial exclusion and violence and finds ways of inhabiting and reimaging past trauma, to shape historical narratives and contemporary political expediencies. This chapter explores some of the key scholarship around this theme before examining the growing proliferation of martyr museums in the region.

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