Back to Reports

SWAR project featuring SEPAD fellows publishes special issue on Sectarianism and Regime Formation

By Morten Valbjørn

Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, vol. 19, 1 (2019) - Special Issue on ‘Sectarianism and Regime Formation in a New Middle East’ Guest edited by Raymond Hinnebusch and Morten Valbjørn

This special issue of Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (vol 19,1) explores the nexus between sectarianism and regime formation in a ‘new Middle East.’

More specifically, it examines a) how sectarianism impacts on the trajectories of different types of regime over time (with the main – but not exclusive – focus being on their location along the authoritarian/democratic continuum), b) whether different kinds of regime dilute or inflame sectarian identities and animosities, c) whether the study of regime formation in a sectarian context requires distinct analytical tools, or whether we can stick to the already existing approaches from the (post)democratization tradition.

All articles of the special issues examine how sectarianism and regime formation/type might be inter-related, though in different ways: they cover different regime types (authoritarian republics, monarchies, and semi-democracies), both Shia- and Sunni-majority countries, countries with and without a Shia/Sunni schism at home, and geographical areas ranging from the Gulf to the Levant, and in addition to these intra-regional comparisons the Middle East is moreover compared with other regions. The studies also differ in their methodology, ranging from a large-N study to comparative snapshots of similar dynamics in several country cases in order to test and demonstrate issues such as the relative power of sectarianism, and longitudinal case studies showing the interaction of sectarian configurations and regime change over time.

The special issue is linked to the interdisciplinary research project SWAR: Sectarianism in the Wake of the Arab Revolts at Aarhus University (

Morten Valbjørn and Raymond Hinnebusch Exploring the Nexus between Sectarianism and Regime Formation in a New Middle East: Theoretical Points of Departure

Lasse Lykke Rørbæk Religion, Political Power, and the ‘Sectarian Surge’: Middle Eastern Identity Politics in Comparative Perspective

Raymond Hinnebusch Sectarianism and Governance in Syria

Adham Saouli Sectarianism and Political Order in Iraq and Lebanon

Courtney Freer The Symbiosis of Sectarianism, Authoritarianism, and Rentierism in the Saudi State

Hasan Hafidh and Thomas Fibiger Civic Space and Sectarianism in the Gulf States: The Dynamics of Informal Civil Society in Kuwait and Bahrain beyond State Institutions

Morten Valbjørn What’s so Sectarian about Sectarian Politics? Identity Politics and Authoritarianism in a New Middle East


Back to Reports