Cover of Sextarianism by Maya Mikdashi
Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon
Maya Mikdashi


May 2022
288 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503628878
Paperback ISBN: 9781503631557



The Lebanese state is structured through religious freedom and secular power sharing across sectarian groups. Every sect has specific laws that govern kinship matters like marriage or inheritance. Together with criminal and civil laws, these laws regulate and produce political difference. But whether women or men, Muslims or Christians, queer or straight, all people in Lebanon have one thing in common—they are biopolitical subjects forged through bureaucratic, ideological, and legal techniques of the state.

With this book, Maya Mikdashi offers a new way to understand state power, theorizing how sex, sexuality, and sect shape and are shaped by law, secularism, and sovereignty. Drawing on court archives, public records, and ethnography of the Court of Cassation, the highest civil court in Lebanon, Mikdashi shows how political difference is entangled with religious, secular, and sexual difference. She presents state power as inevitably contingent, like the practices of everyday life it engenders, focusing on the regulation of religious conversion, the curation of legal archives, state and parastatal violence, and secular activism. Sextarianism locates state power in the experiences, transitions, uprisings, and violence that people in the Middle East continue to live.

About the author

Maya Mikdashi is Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a Lecturer in the Middle East Studies Program at Rutgers University.

"Maya Mikdashi's gloriously written Sextarianism is the book we have been waiting for. Deeply personal in its tone, expansively political in its intent, this book draws on unusual archives and intimate knowledge of Lebanon to show the relation between gender, sexuality, and the state in all its ambivalent, messy complexity."

—Laleh Khalili, University of London

"Sextarianism is luminous. Maya Mikdashi brings panache and an exquisite eye for the quotidian to diverse objects of analysis, all while prying open new conversations about archival research as collective labor. A must-read for anyone studying state formation, the geopolitics of queer theory, and secularism, with implications far beyond Lebanon."

—Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University