By Ussama Makdisi, Ph.D.
Professor of History and Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Arab Studies, Department of History, Rice University
The invocation of sectarianism as a category of analysis for understanding the Middle East is misleading. It conflates a religious identification with a political one, and it ignores the kinship, class and national and regional networks within which sectarian self-expression has invariably been enmeshed. What is urgently needed is a new research agenda to study the dialectic — the complex, constant and unequal relationship between local and foreign — that makes up the modern Middle East.