The Nature and Origins of Sectarian Animosity

81 Pages Posted: 7 May 2019

See all articles by Fotini Christia

Fotini Christia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Elizabeth Dekeyser

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science

Dean Knox

Princeton University

Date Written: April 10, 2019

Abstract

What drives the sectarian antipathy underlying so much conflict across the Middle East? We argue that sectarian animosity stems from a national politicization of sectarian identities. We offer the first systematic, large-scale evaluation of prominent hypotheses about the nature, origins, and content of sectarian antipathy at the individual level. This analysis is based on a broad and geographically representative survey of over 4,000 devout Shi'a from Iraq and Iran, integrated with numerous additional data sources. Our findings suggest tempting parallels between sectarian animosity and ethnonationalism, disillusionment, and lack of out-group contact foster antipathy, nuanced by the uniquely religious aspects of sectarianism. While religious adherence can strongly inflame doctrinal schisms in some social contexts, it moderates tensions in others. We argue that this variation stems from religious socialization, or belief transmission within a religious context to individuals who would otherwise be excluded from the social sphere-a concept that undoubtedly in influences not only sectarianism but broader beliefs.

Keywords: sect, sectarianism, Shi'a, pilgrimage, Iraq, Iran, gender, religion, Islam

Suggested Citation

Christia, Fotini and Dekeyser, Elizabeth and Knox, Dean, The Nature and Origins of Sectarian Animosity (April 10, 2019). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2019-9, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3378793 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3378793

Fotini Christia (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Elizabeth Dekeyser

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Dean Knox

Princeton University ( email )

001 Fisher Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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