Dissertation Title: Nation, Ethnicity and Umma: Identity After the State's Retreat in Syria
Committee: Ian Lustick (chair), Jessica Stanton, Rudra Sil
Summary: In the last several decades we have seen the retreat, weakening, and failure of a number of states: Somalia, Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and the Central African Republic to name a few. While a great deal of work exists to describe the influence of state institutions on identities, little work exists that focuses on the processes which result when these institutions are suddenly gone, when the state no longer has the geographic reach it once possessed. What kinds of identities emerge as dominant after the state has retreated and why? Why is it that in certain instances of state retreat religious, ethnic, tribal, or other local identities emerge as politically salient? In order to evaluate the impact of state retreat on identities, my dissertation considers three subnational case studies from Syria’s ongoing conflict. It considers why civilian and armed actors in each area promote particular identities, the influence of external actors on local institution building, and uses footage from protests to tentatively evaluate the salience of civilians' identities.