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Minorities or citizens in the Middle East? Locating the ‘minority question’ in the intersecting histories of collective national belonging and state-building

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pThis article contributes to the growing scholarship on minority politics in the Middle East by arguing that if minorities are socially or politically constructed then the meaning and implications of minority terminology requires greater historical contextualisation. Focusing on the experience of minority‐ness rather than the deployment of the terminology, which only became prevalent after World War I, this article offers additional insights into the historical roots of contemporary minority politics, as well as the (un)making of national minorities. It explores how debates and reforms pertaining to inclusion/exclusion in the period preceding and during the shift from empire to nation‐state directly contributed to the reception and understanding of who is a minority in the modern Middle East. This is particularly examined through the cases of Chaldean Christians in Iraq and Coptic Christians in Egypt. Many of the leaders of these communities publicly reject minority identification and instead favour locating their communities in the nation‐state through the notion of inclusive citizenship (al‐Mowāṭana). According to this narrative, belonging as citizens erases the meaning of minority. The article suggests that the framing of citizen and minority as mutually exclusive notions is one contemporary expression of an enduring tension around constructing belonging in political communities.</jats:p>


Funder: Leverhulme Foundation

Funder: Isaac Newton Trust; Id:


citizenship, collective identity, inclusion, inequality, middle eastern studies, minorities, nationalism

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Nations and Nationalism

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