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The Rise of Sunni-Shia Conflict in the Middle East

Tuesday 19th May 2015 6:00pm to 7:30pm

What has led to the recent chaos in Iraq, Syria and the Gulf?

The Middle East is fractured and is in flux.  Join renowned speaker, author and authority on Middle Eastern politics,  Dr Toby Matthiesen, as he discusses the rise in the prominence of sectarian politics of the Middle East, in particular the Sunni-Shia conflict.

He will explore through a historical, political and sociological framework the institutional legacies of Ottoman, French and British imperial rule, and how the failure of secular ideologies and the rise of Islamism have paved the way for the rise of sectarian politics.  Various state and non-state actors have used sectarian politics to bolster their support base, delegitimise their political opponents, and seek international alliances, in response to the Arab uprisings since 2011.

The fact that two resource-rich countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, see themselves as protectors of Sunni and Shia communities respectively, fuels this Sunni-Shia sectarianism and internationalises these initially localised conflicts.  The Iranian revolution and the 2003 Iraq War led to a change in the status of non-Sunni Islamic sects, undermining the self-perception amongst Sunni elites that they were the “natural” rulers of the Middle East.  In addition, the spread of Salafi-Wahhabism supported by oil money has provided the language and ideology for this new form of sectarian politics.  Any attempt to defuse tensions in the region and to stop the spread of sectarian hatred needs to take into account the historical genealogies and political economies of sectarianism, as well its international dimension.

Toby Matthiesen is a Research Fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.  He was previously a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  Dr Matthiesen’s first book, Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t, was published by Stanford University Press in 2013.  From 2007 to 2011 he wrote his doctorate on the politicisation of Saudi Arabia’s Shia community at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.  His second book, The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism, which is based on his PhD, has been published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.  He has published in The New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, Middle East Report and various scholarly journals and has appeared on numerous radio and television stations.

Please book at least one day before if you plan to attend this event to assist with catering.

Members $20             student members $10

Non-members $30    student non-members $15

For enquiries contact events.vic@internationalaffairs.org.au or 9654 7271

AIIA members can register and pay for events via either the ‘login’ at the top right hand section of this screen or via Event Registration below.

Event Details

Dyason House, 124 Jolimont Road East Melbourne VIC 3002

Date / Time
Tuesday 19th May 2015 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Event registration has closed, on Tuesday 19th May 2015 1:00pm AEDT.