Cosmopolitanism in Retreat? The Crisis of Syrian Identity in Post-Arab Spring

  • Author / Creator
    Zaamout, Noureddin M
  • This research project examines the following central question: what does Syrian identity mean in the eyes of contending groups in the current Syrian crisis (2011-2017)? In answering this question, the project engages in original research, shedding light on the ‘identity’ dimension of the war in Syria. It challenges primordialist and/or Orientalist approaches to identity, which shadow the cosmopolitan components of the Middle East, confining the region’s identity-politics to notions of sectarianism and conservative militant Islamism resistant to modernity. Through employing Hamid Dabashi’s critical postcolonial cosmopolitan framework of analysis, the research historicizes the crisis of Syrian identity, focusing on critical periods ranging from the 1920s, up to the contemporary crisis (2011-2017). It demonstrates that the country’s postcolonial state-imposed national identity projects have for years been exclusionary, and either have been shaped by, or have encountered, three ideological formations: those are, anti-colonial nationalism, third-world socialism, and Islamism. These formations emerged in conversation with, and in response to, European colonialism and were conveniently deployed by the ruling regimes to legitimatize their position. Through a discourse and content analysis, based on Dabashi’s analytical framework, the research argues that the 2011 Syrian Uprising was an attempt to bring an inclusive meaning to ‘Syrianism’ and to retrieve the repressed cosmopolitan worldliness. Protestors were committed to a unified Syria, as a political entity and a source of identity. They were not seeking an Islamist, a pan-‘Arabist’, a separatist, a Ba’athist socialist or a sectarian vision, but were rather united by prospects of creating a locally produced alternative that would maintain national harmony and retrieve the country’s cosmopolitanism. The research argues that the prolonging of the Syrian conflict has resulted in the deterioration of an inclusive, cosmopolitan ‘Syrianism’, as various actors have risen with conflicting ideas about national identity. Using archival primary and secondary sources, the research problematizes the identity discourse of the conflicting groups and to compare where they place ‘Syria’ in their ideologies. The research findings suggest that the ideologies of the studied combatant groups embody counter-revolutionary exclusionary notions of identity, which are not based on the cosmopolitan worldliness, but rather reinforce the suppressed, reactionary and exclusionary post-colonial ideological dichotomies.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2017-11:Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Political Science
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Mahdavi, Mojtaba (Political Science)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Cressida Heyes (Political Science)
    • Epp, Roger (Political Science)
    • Byrne, Siobhan (Political Science)
    • Mahdavi, Mojtaba (Political Science)