Cover of Practicing Sectarianism by Edited by Lara Deeb, Tsolin Nalbantian, and Nadya Sbaiti
Practicing Sectarianism
Archival and Ethnographic Interventions on Lebanon
Edited by Lara Deeb, Tsolin Nalbantian, and Nadya Sbaiti


November 2022
258 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503631090
Paperback ISBN: 9781503633865
Ebook ISBN: 9781503633872

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Excerpts and More

Winner of the 2023 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Title, sponsored by the American Library Association.

Practicing Sectarianism explores the imaginative and contradictory ways that people live sectarianism. The book's essays use the concept as an animating principle within a variety of sites across Lebanon and its diasporas and over a range of historical periods. With contributions from historians and anthropologists, this volume reveals the many ways sectarianism is used to exhibit, imagine, or contest power: What forms of affective pull does it have on people and communities? What epistemological work does it do as a concept? How does it function as a marker of social difference?

Examining social interaction, each essay analyzes how people experience sectarianism, sometimes pushing back, sometimes evading it, sometimes deploying it strategically, to a variety of effects and consequences. The collection advances an understanding of sectarianism simultaneously constructed and experienced, a slippery and changeable concept with material effects. And even as the book's focus is Lebanon, its analysis fractures the association of sectarianism with the nation-state and suggests possibilities that can travel to other sites. Practicing Sectarianism, taken as a whole, argues that sectarianism can only be fully understood—and dismantled—if we first take it seriously as a practice.

About the authors

Lara Deeb is Professor of Anthropology at Scripps College.

Tsolin Nalbantian is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University.

Nadya Sbaiti is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at the American University of Beirut.

"Bringing together a set of brilliant reflections on the landscapes of everyday sectarianism in Lebanon, Practicing Sectarianism will be an invaluable resource for anthropologists, historians, and all those interested in the making and meanings of community in the modern Middle East and beyond. A truly splendid book."

—Andrew Arsan, University of Cambridge

"This ambitious volume puzzles through the everyday lives of sectarianism to offer exciting, and at times counter-intuitive, findings about this complex discourse of power and identity. Bringing together top anthropologists and historians, Practicing Sectarianism draws on the best of both disciplines to reframe the question of sect and sectarianism in Lebanon and beyond."

—Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Northwestern University

"Practicing Sectarianism subtly kills the concept that won't die, situating sectarianism at once in material reality and in dynamic social construction. Provocative, incisive, grounded in lived realities, the book delivers a powerful antidote to those who see Lebanon simplistically through the lens of religion. A necessary read."

—Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis

"A crucial criticism of the everyday practices and discrepant experiences of sectarianism by a range of brilliant scholars."

—Ussama Makdisi, Rice University

"The volume as a whole is crucial for Middle East collections and highly beneficial for all study of contemporary sectarianism. Essential."

—K. Tölölyan, CHOICE