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Power, Sect and State in Syria: The Politics of Marriage and Identity Amongst the Druze

Power, Sect and State in Syria: The Politics of Marriage and Identity Amongst the Druze
Maria Kastrinou

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The Syrian state's rhetoric of Arab nationalism left little room for the official recognition of minority identities in pre-war Syria. Yet in practice, the state continually engaged with the Druze and other minorities to reinforce its legitimacy, often through cultural policy. Uncovering this neglected aspect of pre-war Syrian politics, Kastrinou explores the cultural politics of marriage in Syria, primarily among the Druze, to reveal how practical rituals of marriage inform sectarian and national identity formation.Challenging the assumed inherence of sectarianism and Druze endogamy, the book provides an historical and ethnographic account of political power and its relation to social control in Syria. It demonstrates the centrality of the body to Druze cosmology and how ritual performances of birth, marriage and death maintain and negotiate sectarian cohesion. Connecting these struggles to national and international politics, Kastrinou examines how both the Syrian government and the European Union have sponsored marriage-themed dance performances in Syria, each leveraging its cultural importance to legitimise their own policy goals.

The book establishes marriage as a pervasive idiom for the construction of collective identity in Syria, which is appropriated by individuals, sects, states and intergovernmental organizations alike. Its conclusions are relevant to scholars of Middle East studies, sectarianism, anthropology and politics.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Sect and House
3. Birth, Death and Reincarnation
4. Marriage and Politics in Jaramana
5. Marriage, the State and Folklore Festivals
6. Power, Resistance and Youth Politics
7. Dancing Marriage with Leish
8. The Intimate and Violent Struggles Ahead

Author Info

A. Maria A. Kastrinou is a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at Brunel University London. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Durham University and has conducted long-term fieldwork in Syria. Her research has been published in the journals History and Anthropology and Mediterranean Politics.


'This is a highly important contribution to the scholarship on pre-2011 Syria and Syrians. Kastrinou has crafted a very rich ethnographic account of the politics of marriage and identity among the Druze in an urban village outside of Damascus. She has also intersected this account with deep analysis of the relationships between the state and folklore as well as analyses of debates among Damascene intellectuals. Kastrinou is able to convey not only scholarly excellence but deep emotional commitment to the people she has lived, laughed and cried with.'
Professor Annika Rabo, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University 

'This powerful study is valuable as a rare contemporary account of the Syrian Druze and, through its insights, how marriage becomes a central preoccupation in Syria. Kastrinou moves from intimate descriptions of an errant daughter’s marriage to an expansive look at how power relations among Druze, the state, artists and intellectuals are expressed in the rituals and staged performances of marriages. Beyond seeing marriage as an important tool of elites, she shows us that sects and state seek validation through marriage idioms. Finally her discussion of sectarianism enlightens us about much that is going on in the Middle East today.'     
Andrea B. Rugh, Adjunct Scholar, Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.

'Maria Kastrinou's elegant and sophisticated ethnography provides a moving account of daily life and philosophy within a Syrian Druze community during the last years of peace before the current civil war.'
Professor Robert H. Layton, Department of Anthropology, Durham University

'This is a wonderfully warm and evocative ethnography of a Druze community in a suburb of Damascus. Focussing specifically on acts of  marriage, both as practiced in the community and as staged through state-sponsored cultural festivities, Kastrinou brings to life the formation and dynamics of power relations within and between the Druze religious community, the state, artists and intellectuals. This is a book of immense importance, bringing  together  anthropological  concepts of cultural intimacy,  kinship theories,  and nuptial power relations  as a form of governmentality. It makes a powerful contribution to our understanding of the political economy of social identities.'
Dawn Chatty, Professor Emerita of Anthropology and Forced Migration, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: Library of Modern Middle East Studies

ISBN: 9781784532208
Publication Date: 29 Mar 2016
Number of Pages: 320
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 20 bw integrated, 3 line

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