Call for Papers for Special Issue: Sectarian Identity Formation and Intra-Group Muslim Rivalries in Southeast Asia and Beyond

1st Nov 2019 by Simon Mabon

The renewed saliency of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian identities in the violent conflicts and contentious politics in several Middle Eastern countries has been the focus of a number of important academic work in recent times. The emphasis in this body of work has been on understanding when and why intra-Muslim identities and rivalries emerge in the form that they do. One approach to unpack the multitude of factors involved in the construction of sectarian identities is the concept of sectarianization. The sectarianization thesis explains the emergence of conflict in authoritarian Middle Eastern country contexts as an active process shaped by the instrumental objectives of state actors, who manipulate particular identities, so as to retain power. 


Yet there are other forms of intra-Muslim group divisions and rivalries that are increasing salient, and arguably more relevant to contentious politics in several Muslim societies. For example, the rivalries between Indonesia’s two largest Muslim civil society groups, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, and contestations between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ Muslim groups in Singapore and Malaysia. These emergent forms of intra-Muslim divisions and rivalries in Muslim societies are less studied and they constitute the focus of our Special Issue. 


We look for paper contributions that engage with and build on the sectarianization thesis to explicate the emergence of these other forms of intra-Muslim divisions and rivalries in different country contexts in the regions of Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. We welcome papers that demonstrate the workings of multiple structural factors and contextual drivers in the construction of emergent sectarian identities and intra-Muslim rivalries and divisions, which are germane to the country context studied. This may include the politicisation of ethno-religious identities; competition over access to state recognition, positions, and resources; political uncertainty or change; subnational contestations over reinterpretations of religious traditions; and transnational ideological influences. 


The Special Issue aims to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of sectarianism and the development of intra-Muslim group rivalries and contestations. We welcome papers that contribute new perspectives to the workings of the sectarianization process in different Muslim societies. Some possible questions to reflect on include: What aspects of the sectarianization thesis can inform our understanding of these other forms of intra-Muslim divisions and rivalries that are becoming increasingly salient in Muslim societies? What other analytical considerations do we need for a more nuanced understanding of sectarianism and the development of intra-Muslim group contestations in particular country contexts? What are the lessons learned from the politics of identity formation and sectarian politics in particular country contexts that can potentially enrich our understanding of Muslim politics worldwide?


Please sent your paper abstract and direct your queries to Alexander Arifianto ( and Saleena Saleem (


Deadline for paper abstract submission: November 22, 2019


Deadline for full paper submission: December 30, 2019