Violence In The Middle East: From Political Struggle To Self-sacrifice

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9781558763098: Violence In The Middle East: From Political Struggle To Self-sacrifice

Violence has been a central political issue in many Middle Eastern countries during the past two decades, either episodically (Syria, Iran) or continually (Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine). This groundbreaking new study sheds light on the dynamics of this phenomenon by going beyond factors usually cited as the root causes - economy, religion, and culture - and investigating the political structure that actually triggers this violence. Violence seems to be treated by some groups during their initial stages as a rational instrument for changing contested power relations. In their later stages, these movements often weaken and spawn fragmented and privatized forms of violence - warlords are one example - and in some situations the violence metamorphoses into nihilistic, sacrificial, and/or messianic forms. This book explores the ways in which the criminalization of political, ethnic, and sectarian identities has contributed to the formation of a "tragic mind" that perceives violence as the surest provider of justice and hope. The author's in-depth analysis, which combines approaches from the cognitive, social, and religious sciences, can help us to understand the logic behind these forms of violence.

Les informations fournies dans la section « Synopsis » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.

About the Author :

Hamit Bozarslan, Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris, is the author of several books, including La question Kurds: Etats et minorites au Moyen-Orient.

Review :

"Violence has been a central concept in describing the politics and society of many Middle Eastern countries. It has determined not only the political developments of these countries, but it has also played a focal role in the perception of this region by outsiders. Many people living in different parts of the world are confronted daily with news about the violence in the Middle East. Suicide bombing, kidnapping, hijacking, and other forms of violence have become one of the central tenets of politics in this volatile region. Numerous studies have been done by scholars in the academic world regarding the roots of this violence. Economic problems, religious extremism, and a culture of violence have often been considered the usual suspects. This book intends to go beyond these explanations for the violence and emphasizes political structure as a major component of the emergence and transformation of violence in the Middle East. Hamit Bozarslan first explains the gap in the literature regarding violence, which made writing such a book necessary. In the attacks of September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers collectively transformed their bodies into weapons, which was the necessary condition for their actions. This weapons system, in which human bodies are used as integral parts of explosive munitions, has changed the form and meaning of violence in the Middle East, most noticeably in Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Palestine. According to the author, the mainstream models used by social scientists do not explain the peculiarly sacrificial forms of violence that we are now observing in various regions of the world. He emphasizes the necessity of new interdisciplinary approaches, attentive both to long-term structural factors and to sociocognitive discontinuities, and in the remaining pages of the book takes these factors into account. The central claim of the book concerning the sporadic violence in the Middle East is that "the power relations and subjective perceptions that the authors of violence have of a given situation are heavily accountable for violence" (p. 8). There are three interrelated hypotheses related to this core argument. The first hypothesis is that 'Violence in the Middle East is a result primarily of political structures, i.e., the nature of the states and their power relations" (p. 8). This violence is very much related to the existence of the authoritarian states and power relations and marginalized social groups or ethnic and sectarian minorities within the borders of particular states. The intention of the people who engage in these violent movements is to change power relations and political structures. The second hypothesis is.that, although the violent movements "weaken as organized efforts in their later stages; they very often give birth to fragmented and privatized forms of violence" (p. 8). In fact, when a particular regime does not divest itself of its repressive authoritarian structure, the violence of those who oppose it may lead to the overthrow of the regime, although there is no guarantee that the new regime will be more democratic. However, when violent struggle cannot achieve this end, the level of violence and organized movements that are behind it usually decline. This decrease in the level of violence does not mean the end of violence. It usually continues, reproduces itself, and sometimes turns into something else. For example, in some cases, it becomes detached from the ideological and political commitment that it used to serve, which leads the way to the privatization and professionalization of violence. This professionalization does not mean the total eradication of the political discourses, but the movement has lost its mobilizatioiial force and has failed to enlarge the initial circles of militants by recruiting new fighters. The final hypothesis is that, in some situations, & --International Journal of Middle East Studies

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