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In his disturbing and timely political history of the ‘Deep State’ in the Middle East, Jean-Pierre Filiu reveals how the autocracies of Syria, Egypt, and Yemen crushed the democratic uprisings of the ‘Arab Revolution’. They did so by turning to the shadowy intelligence agencies and internal security arms of the so-called ‘Deep State’ — emulating strategies pioneered in Kemalist Turkey — who had decades of experience in dealing with internal dissent, as well as to street gangs (the Baltaguiyya in Egypt) or death squads (the Shabbiha in Syria) to enforce their will. Alongside intimidation, imprisonment and murder, the Arab counter-revolutionaries released from prison and secretly armed and funded many hardline Islamists, thereby boosting Salafi–Jihadi groups such as Islamic State, in the hope of convincing the Western powers to back their dictatorships. They also succeeded in dividing the opposition forces ranged against them, going so far as to ruthlessly discard politicians and generals from among their own elite in the pursuit of absolute, unfettered, power. The impact of the Arab counter-revolution surprised most observers, who thought they had seen it all from the despots and security mafias of the Middle East: their perversity, their brutality, their voracity. But the wider world underestimated their ferocious readiness to literally burn down their countries in order to cling to absolute power. Bashar al-Assad clambered to the top of this murderous class of tyrants, driving nearly half of the Syrian population into exile and executing tens of thousands of his opponents. He has set a grisly precedent, one that other Arab autocrats may yet resort to.

What has become of Israel’s peace movement? In the early 1980s, it was a major political force, bringing hundreds of thousands onto the streets; but since then, its importance has declined amid spiralling violence. Now, and especially since the second Intifada of 2000–5, the ‘doves’ of the Israel/Palestine conflict struggle to be heard over its ‘hawks’, and the days of mass mobilisation are over. Doves Among Hawks charts the successes and failures of a beleaguered peace movement, from its formation after the Six-Day War to the current security-obsessed climate, where Israel’s ‘doves’ seem to be fighting a lost and outdated battle. Samy Cohen’s history of a peace process that once took on the Israeli settler movements exposes how that cause has been derailed and demoralised by suicide attacks. But the peace movement isn’t dead—it has simply transformed. From human rights monitors to lobbies of the bereaved, Cohen reveals a multitude of smaller, grassroots organisations that have emerged with unexpected energy. These lawyers, doctors, army reservists, former diplomats and senior security personnel are the unsung heroes of his story.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2007-02
PALMER David A.
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This book is a social history of the qigong craze which swept urban socialist China in the post-Mao era, leading to the emergence of Falun Gong and its subsequent repression. How could a system of body, breath and mental training exercises, initially promoted by senior Communist Party leaders as a uniquely Chinese healing tradition and as the harbinger of a future scientific revolution, become an outlet for a mass expression of religiosity which was then ruthlessly crushed by the Chinese state? Tracing the complex relations between the masters, officials, scientists, practitioners, and ideologues involved with the qigong movement, the book combines historical, anthropological, and sociological approaches to describe a critical phase in the reinvention of Chinese tradition in its encounter with modernity and the state. It will be of interest to students and scholars of Chinese religion and body cultivation, contemporary Chinese culture and politics, and religious movements in the modern world.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2002-09
BOUISSOU Jean-Marie
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On publication in France, Bouissou’s depiction of modern Japan was acclaimed as `the best of its kind’, and this translation has been updated to cover events up till 1999, and augmented by an overview of the Japanese historical legacy before 1945. In the tradition of French scholarship, which rejects a too narrow focus, this textbook encompasses all the aspects of the transformation that raised Japan from the ashes of defeat to the status of `an economic model’. Bouissou closely relates economic growth to social change and politics – of which he gives a particulary detailed account. He shows how these upheavals affected the Japanese value system, collective mind, way of living and culture, illustrating his argument from post-war Japanese literature and cinema. The combination of this broad approach, and provocative analysis which emphasises social dislocation rather than the much-vaunted Japanese predilection for social harmony, distinguishes this textbook from others in the field.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2008-01
ROY Olivier
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Olivier Roy argues that the unintended and unforeseen consequences of the ‘war on terror’ have artificially conflated conflicts in the Middle East such that they appear to be the expression of a widespread ‘Muslim anger’ against the West. In this new book he seeks to restore the individual logic and dynamics of each of these conflicts, the better to understand the widespread political discontent that sustains them. Instead of two opposed sides, an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, he warns that the West faces an array of ‘reverse alliances’: in Pakistan the West backs General Musharraf, whose military intelligence services support the Taliban; in Iraq the United States shores up a government that has close links to its arch-enemy, Iran; the Iraqi Kurds, allies of the Americans, give sanctuary to an adversary (the PKK) of a fellow NATO member, Turkey; while the Saudis support the Iraqi Sunnis who are fighting Coalition forces. If these issues were not enough to contend with, the Shia-Sunni divide has emerged as one of the leading strategic factors in the Middle East. But the ‘war on terror’ is not merely the geopolitical blunder of a lunatic neo-conservative fringe in Washington; it is also deeply rooted in Western perceptions of the Middle East. Chief among these is the belief that Islam, rather than politics, is the overarching factor in all such conflicts, which in turn explains the West’s support for either would be secular democrats or more or less benign dictators. Roy concludes by arguing that the West has no alternative but to engage in a dialogue with the political forces that count, namely the Islamo-nationalists of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2012-09
MEYER Claude
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The twenty-first century will doubtless be that of Asia, which by 2030 will be home to three of the world’s four mightiest economies, including India. This stimulating book aims to open a debate on the question of leadership in Asia for which China and Japan are competing. It assesses the two rivals’ strengths and weaknesses as well as the major challenges which they will face in that battle for supremacy. On this basis, it proposes the most probable scenario for the next two decades in the light of the dialectical relationship between economics and strategic power. Without neglecting the strategic aspects that give advantage to China, priority is given to an economic approach, because that is the primary arena in which Asian integration is taking place and the one in which a resilient Japan still firmly maintains its leadership, based on productivity, competitiveness and technological edge.

Sous la direction de SMOUTS Marie-Claude, Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2001-03
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Are international relations as we have known them coming to an end, to be replaced by a global politics in which inter-power rivalry and the exercise of authority are not longer to be defined within national boundaries, and the distinction between states and non-state actors will beome irrelevant? In this commissioned study, specialists in international relations from the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales in Paris explore the impact on international affairs of globalisation and the post-bi-polar world. They also scrutinise the state of knowledge concerning themes of nationalism and its resurgence, the building of a unitary Europe, international political economy, conflicts and conflict resolution, the narrowing of time and space, and the role of international organisations.

The Republic of China that retreated to Taiwan in 1949 maintains its de facto, if not de jure, independence yet Beijing has consistently refused formally to abandon the idea of reunifying Taiwan with China. As well as growing military pressure, the PRC’s irredentist policy is premised on encouraging cross-Strait economic integration. Responding to preferential measures, Taiwanese industrialists have invested massively in the PRC, often relocating their businesses there. Fragments of a nation torn apart by contradictory claims, these entrepreneurs are vectors of a new form of unification imposed by the Chinese Communist Party, promoted but postponed on the island by the Nationalist Party, and rejected by Taiwanese pro-independence parties. Within what can be described as an unfinished civil war, socio-economic dynamics remain embedded in conflicts over sovereignty. Transnational actors have freed themselves from security constraints, thereby benefiting economically from reforms in China and ultimately restructuring politics in Taiwan itself, and, in so doing, relations between Beijing and Taipei. A fictitious depoliticization has governed the opening of the Sino-Taiwanese border in order to postpone any resolution of the sovereignty issue. Mengin’s startlingly original book highlights the competing, and fragmented, elements within one of the world’s most intractable territorial disputes.

Sous la direction de BUCAILLE Laetitia, BLOM Amélie, MARTINEZ Luis Publication date 2007-07
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The debate surrounding Islamist violence remains locked in oppositional sterility. Are such attacks perpetrated by Islamists as a matter of belief or do they reflect socio-economic realities? Is the suicide bomber a pathological case, as the psychologist maintains, or a clever strategist, as those steeped in the geopolitical approach claim? This book aims to transcend both the culturalist or underdevelopment explanations by focusing on the highly variegated nature of the phenomenon. For example, suicide attacks are relatively common in Kashmir and Israel/Palestine but almost non-existent in Algeria and Yemen, both of which have experienced long-running campaigns by violent Islamist groups. However a more nuanced reading, based on a series of case studies, reveals a less obvious set of meanings for suicidal political violence. These bring us closer to the Islamists' political mindset: a quest for purity in the next world that replaces the justice here on earth of which the militant despairs; the distress caused by the degeneracy of a failing ethno-nationalist rebellion, which encourages a shift in the struggle to the timelessness of death; or the paradoxical desire to assert one's individuality when the wider group is powerless by carrying out an 'exemplary' act of war against an enemy that is increasingly imagined rather than real. These are among the complex motivations of suicide attacks that this book brings to light.

What should states do with the bodies of suicide bombers and other jihadists who die while perpetrating terrorist attacks? This original and unsettling book explores the host of ethical and political questions raised by this dilemma, from (non-)legitimisation of the ‘enemy’ and their cause to the non-territorial identity of individuals who identified in life with a global community of believers. Because states do not recognise suicide bombers as enemy combatants, governments must decide individually what to do with their remains. Riva Kastoryano offers a window onto this challenging predicament through the responses of the American, Spanish, British and French governments after the Al-Qaeda suicide attacks in New York, Madrid and London, and Islamic State’s attacks on Paris in 2015. Interviewing officials, religious and local leaders and jihadists’ families, both in their countries of origin and in the target nations, she has traced the terrorists’ travel history, discovering unexpected connections between their itineraries and the handling of their burials. This fascinating book reveals how states’ approaches to a seemingly practical issue are closely shaped by territory, culture, globalisation and identity.

India has long been dominated by the upper castes, most notably the Brahmins and the warrior castes whose influence permeates society at every level. Since the 1960s a new assertiveness has characterised this formerly silenced majority (the lower castes comprise more than two-thirds of the Indian population). Its growing political consciousness was first epitomised by Charan Singh’s efforts to build a peasant movement and then by the demand for job quotas for the low castes that V.P.Singh articulated in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, many official posts are ‘reserved’ for ‘Other Backward Classes’, namely the lower castes. India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh is controlled by lower caste politicians, as is Bihar, and lower caste representation in national politics is growing inexorably. The author of this text argues that this trend constitutes a genuine ‘democratisation’ of India and that the social and economic effects of this ‘silent revolution’ are bound to mutiply in the years to come.

With an official population approaching fifteen million, Karachi is one of the largest cities in the world. It is also the most violent. Since the mid-1980s, it has endured endemic political conflict and criminal violence, which revolve around control of the city and its resources (votes, land and bhatta—‘protection’ money). These struggles for the city have become ethnicised. Karachi, often referred to as a ‘Pakistan in miniature,’ has become increasingly fragmented, socially as well as territorially. Despite this chronic state of urban political warfare, Karachi is the cornerstone of the economy of Pakistan. Gayer’s book is an attempt to elucidate this conundrum. Against journalistic accounts describing Karachi as chaotic and ungovernable, he argues that there is indeed order of a kind in the city’s permanent civil war. Far from being entropic, Karachi’s polity is predicated upon organisational, interpretative and pragmatic routines that have made violence ‘manageable’ for its populations. Whether such ‘ordered disorder’ is viable in the long term remains to be seen, but for now Karachi works despite—and sometimes through—violence. (Publisher's abstract)

Laurence Louër, author of the critically acclaimed To Be an Arab in Israel, brings her extensive knowledge of the Middle East to an analysis of the historical origins and present situation of militant Shia transnational networks. She focuses on three key countries in the gulf: Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, whose Shia Islamic groups are the offspring of various Iraqi movements that have surfaced over recent decades. Louër explains how these groups first penetrated local societies by espousing the networks of Shiite clergymen. She then describes the role of factional quarrels and the Iranian revolution of 1979 in defining the present landscape of Shiite Islamic activism in the Gulf monarchies. The reshaping of geopolitics after the Gulf War and the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 had a profound impact on transnational Shiite networks. New political opportunities encouraged these groups to concentrate on national issues, such as becoming fierce opponents of the Saudi monarchy. Yet the question still remains: How deeply have these new beliefs taken root in Islamic society? Are Shiites Saudi or Bahraini patriots? Louër's book also considers the transformation of Shia movements in relation to central religious authority. While they strive to formulate independent political agendas, Shia networks remain linked to religious authorities (marja') who reside either in Iraq or Iran. This connection becomes all the more problematic should the marja' also be the head of a state, as with Iran's Ali Khamenei. In conclusion, Louër argues that the Shia will one day achieve political autonomy, especially as the marja', in order to retain transnational religious authority, begin to meddle less and less in the political affairs of other countries.

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The vulnerability which is the lot of any nation without a state was experienced in a particularly extreme way by the Jews. With the destitution and persecution of many Jewish communities in the 19th century, especially in Eastern Europe, Jews demanded a solution to their uprootedness. This required a state. Alain Dieckhoff recounts the tortuous ordeal through which the Jews reacted to the challenge of modernity. While some contributed to the development of capitalism and put their talents at the service of the Western European states, others threw themselves into revolutionary movements. Yet others imagined ways of ‘re-nationalising’ Jews by transforming them into a nation. Thus the Jews were formidable experimenters who participated in causes with contradictory agendas: assimilation (bourgeois or socialist) or nationalism. The text focuses on Zionism, whose ultimate objective was the creation of a sovereign state for the Jews in Palestine. This required the invention of the Jewish nation. Such an objective meant several things: building a national language, defining a secularised and territorialised Jewish identity, and using military power. This was a difficult enterprise, as the national project was faced with the persistence of communitarianism. But the enterprise was at least partly successful: this process of politicisation makes Israel a paradigmatic example of the invention of a nation-state, the main focus of this work.

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Published in English for the first time, this book defends the idea that nationhood remains a central aspect of modernity. After the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the following decade confirmed this hypothesis with the rise of independence movements in Europe (in Scotland and Flanders) and the persistence of claims to nationhood the world over (for example, in Kurdistan and Tibet). A dual perspective informs Dieckhoff’s analysis: to understand the hidden social and cultural underpinnings of post-Cold War identity dynamics, from Kosovo to Catalonia and from Flanders to Corsica, and to examine how societies can meet the challenge of national pluralism. Finding liberalism, republicanism and multiculturalism unequal to this task, he argues that only by building ‘multi-nation’ democratic states can the issues be properly addressed and secessions prevented. Contemporary liberal discourse often treats nationalism as an archaic aberration — as a primitive form of tribalism astray in the modern world. Dieckhoff’s sensitive and clear-headed analysis shows why nationalism is in fact a fundamental facet of modernity, which must be dealt with as such by states vulnerable to breakup. (Résumé éditeur)

Publication date 2007-07
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The militant attitude of the United States after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 inspired the leadership of Libya to change its confrontational attitude towards America and Europe. The regime abandoned its development of nuclear weapons and opened its economy to the West. Nevertheless, Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of the Libyan Revolution, has found ways to consolidate his hold on the country. In this controversial book, Luis Martinez suggests that the future of Libya now lies in becoming, paradoxically, what he terms an "authoritarian liberal state."

During the 1970s, owing to their oil ‘rents’, Algeria, Iraq and Libya all seemed engaged in a swift modernisation process. Oil was the godsend that would enable these states to catch up economically. Algeria was a ‘Mediterranean dragon,’ Libya an ‘emirate’ and Iraq ‘the rising military power’ of the Arab world. From a political perspective, progressive socialism suggested that profound changes were underway: women’s liberation, urbanisation, education for all, longer life expectancy and so on. A few decades later, the disillusion is a cruel one. A sense of wealth led these countries to undertake political, economic and military experiments that would lead to impasses with disastrous consequences which they are still trying to overcome. How did it all happen? Can these countries dispense with far-reaching reforms? Can the EU export its norms and values and protect its gas supply? This book offers the first global approach to the subject.

Publication date 2014-09
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Through its millennium–long existence, Gaza has often been bitterly disputed while simultaneously and paradoxically enduring prolonged neglect. Jean-Pierre Filiu’s book is the first comprehensive history of Gaza in any language. Squeezed between the Negev and Sinai deserts on the one hand and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, Gaza was contested by the Pharaohs, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Fatimids, the Mamluks, the Crusaders and the Ottomans. Napoleon had to secure it in 1799 to launch his failed campaign on Palestine. In 1917, the British Empire fought for months to conquer Gaza, before establishing its mandate on Palestine. In 1948, 200,000 Palestinians sought refuge in Gaza, a marginal area neither Israel nor Egypt wanted. Palestinian nationalism grew there, and Gaza has since found itself at the heart of Palestinian history. It is in Gaza that the fedayeen movement arose from the ruins of Arab nationalism. It is in Gaza that the 1967 Israeli occupation was repeatedly challenged, until the outbreak of the 1987 intifada. And it is in Gaza, in 2007, that the dream of Palestinian statehood appeared to have been shattered by the split between Fatah and Hamas. The endurance of Gaza and the Palestinians make the publication of this history both timely and significant. (Publisher's abstract)

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Jean-Louis Rocca’s admirably concise Sociology of Modern China wears its scholarship lightly and paints an intimate and complex portrait of Chinese society in little more than a 130 pages, all the while avoiding clichés and simplifications. He delves into China’s history and examines the country’s many different social strata so as to better understand the enormous challenges and opportunities with which its people are confronted. After discussing the ‘long march toward reform’ and the crises along the way — among them the 1989 protests which culminated in the events in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere — Rocca dedicates the second half of the book to the major questions facing the country (or, at the very least, its political elites) today: new forms of social stratification; the interaction between the market and the state; growing individualism; and the pressures exerted by social conflict and political change. In eschewing culturalist visions, Rocca thoroughly and successfully deconstructs received wisdom about Chinese society to reveal a thriving nation and its people.

In this politically incorrect essay Samy Cohen, one of France’s leading specialists in international relations, attacks a new sacred cow: the theory of the decline of the state. According to this received wisdom, under the impact of globalisation states are in decline and frontiers being gradually abolished. The outcome could be at worst an unregulated and anarchic world, at best the emergence of international civil society, stronger than local institutions and political authority. Cohen demonstrates that the situation is not like this at all: that what he ironically calls the ‘transnational-state-decline’ theory is a fashionable fable at university seminars, but in no way a reality. A good illustration of this, he says, is what happens to NGOs. Those valorous moral organisations seem at the outset to herald a world without borders, but few of them are independent of states or even of armies, and even fewer are capable of autonomous and freely informed expression. Cohen contends, first, that the state ‘is fighting back’, for good or ill; that it retains its freedom of manoeuvre and is resisting pressure to make it more virtuous, more transparent, or more willing to share responsibility. Second, he emphasises that the state which ‘fights back’ is the best or the worst thing possible: there is no shortage of state authority, but there is a strong risk of a shortage of concerted policy, not only at the continental level but at the level of the old Europe or the Third World.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2017-04
ROY Olivier
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How has ISIS been able to muster support far beyond its initial constituency in the Arab world and attract tens of thousands of foreign volunteers, including converts to Islam, and seemingly countless supporters online? In this compelling intervention into the debate about ISIS’ origins and future prospects, the renowned French sociologist, Olivier Roy, argues that while terrorism and jihadism are familiar phenomena, the deliberate pursuit of death has produced a new kind of radical violence. In other words, we’re facing not a radicalization of Islam, but the Islamization of radicalism. Jihad and Death is a concise dissection of the highly sophisticated narrative mobilised by ISIS: the myth of the Caliphate recast into a modern story of heroism and nihilism. According to Roy, this very contemporary aesthetic of violence is less rooted in the history of Islamic thought than it is entrenched in a youth culture that has turned global and violent.

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2004-09
ROY Olivier
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The spread of Islam around the globe has blurred the connection between a religion, a specific society, and a territory. One-third of the world’s Muslims now live as members of a minority. At the heart of this development are the voluntary settlement of Muslims in Western societies and the pervasiveness and influence of Western cultural models and social norms. The revival of Islam among Muslim populations is often wrongly seen as a backlash against westernisation rather than as one of its consquences. Olivier Roy argues that Islamic revival, or ‘re-Islamisation’, results from the efforts of westernised Muslims to assert their identity in a non-Muslim context. A schism has emerged between mainstream Islamist movements in the Muslim world and the uprooted militants who strive to establish an imaginary ummah, or Muslim community. Roy provides a detailed comparison of these transnational movements, whether peaceful like Tablighi Jama’at and the Islamic brotherhoods, or violent like al-Qaeda. He shows how neofundamentalism acknowledges without nostalgia the loss of pristine cultures, constructing instead a universal religious identity that transcends the very notion of culture. Thus contemporary Islamic fundamentalism is not a simple reaction against westernisation but a product and an agent of the complex forces of globalisation.

Sous la direction de DORRONSORO Gilles, GROJEAN Olivier, Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2018-05
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Ethnic and religious identity-markers compete with class and gender as principles shaping the organisation and classification of everyday life. But how are an individual’s identity-based conflicts transformed and redefined? Identity is a specific form of social capital, hence contexts where multiple identities obtain necessarily come with a hierarchy, with differences, and hence with a certain degree of hostility. The contributors to this book examine the rapid transformation of identity hierarchies affecting Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, a symptom of political fractures, social-economic transformation, and new regimes of subjectification. They focus on the state’s role in organising access to resources, with its institutions often being the main target of demands, rather than competing social groups. Such contexts enable entrepreneurs of collective action to exploit identity differences, which in turn help them to expand the scale of their mobilisation and to align local and national conflicts. The authors also examine how identity-based violence may be autonomous in certain contexts, and serve to prime collective action and transform the relations between communities. (Publisher's abstract)

Sous la direction de Centre de recherches internationales Publication date 2010-10
ROY Olivier
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Olivier Roy, world-renowned authority on Islam and politics, finds in the modern disconnection between faith communities and socio-cultural identities a fertile space for fundamentalism to grow. Instead of freeing the world from religion, secularisation has encouraged a kind of holy ignorance to take root, an anti-intellectualism that promises immediate, emotional access to the sacred and positions itself in direct opposition to contemporary pagan culture. The secularisation of society was supposed to free people from religion, yet individuals are converting en masse to fundamentalist faiths, such as Protestant evangelicalism, Islamic Salafism, and Haredi Judaism. These religions either reconnect adherents to their culture through casual referents, like halal fast food, or maintain their momentum through purification rituals, such as speaking in tongues, a practice that allows believers to utter a language that is entirely their own. Instead of a return to traditional religious worship, we are now witnessing the individualisation of faith and the disassociation of faith communities from ethnic and national identities. Roy explores the options now available to powers that hope to integrate or control these groups; and whether marginalisation or homogenisation will further divide believers from their culture.

How can we comprehend the sociopolitical processes that give rise to extreme violence, ethnic cleansing, or genocide? A major breakthrough in comparative analysis, Purify and Destroy demonstrates that it is indeed possible to compare the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina while respecting the specificities of each appalling phenomenon. Jacques Semelin achieves this, in part, by leading his readers through the three examples simultaneously, the unraveling of which sometimes converges but most often diverges. Semelin's method is multidisciplinary, relying not only on contemporary history but also on social psychology and political science. Based on the seminal distinction between massacre and genocide, Purify and Destroy identifies the main steps of a general process of destruction, both rational and irrational, born of what Semelin terms "delusional rationality." He describes a dynamic structural model with, at its core, the matrix of a social imaginaire that, responding to fears, resentments, and utopias, carves and recarves the social body by eliminating "the enemy." Semelin identifies the main stages that can lead to a genocidal process and explains how ordinary people can become perpetrators. He develops an intellectual framework to analyze the entire spectrum of mass violence, including terrorism, in the twentieth century and before. Strongly critical of today's political instrumentalization of the "genocide" notion, Semelin urges genocide research to stand back from legal and normative definitions and come of age as a discipline in its own right in the social sciences. (Résumé éditeur)

What has become of the Russian state twenty years after the collapse of Communism? Why have the rulers and the ruled turned away from democratic institutions and the rule of law? What explains the Putin regime’s often uncooperative policies towards Europe and its difficult relations with the rest of the world? These are among the key issues discussed in this essential book on contemporary Russia by Marie Mendras, France’s leading scholar on the subject. Mendras provides an original and incisive analysis of Russia’s political system since Gorbachev’s perestroika. Contrary to conventional thinking, she contends that today the Russian state is weak and ineffective. Vladimir Putin has dismantled and undermined most public institutions, and has consolidated a patronage system of rule. The Medvedev presidency is but one chapter in the story. Political and economic power remains concentrated in the hands of a few groups and individuals, and the elites remain loyal to the leadership in order to hold on to their positions and prosper. Those at the helm of the state are unaccountable to the society they govern. Up until the economic crisis of 2008, ordinary Russians largely turned a blind eye to these authoritarian methods because living standards had markedly improved. The economic slowdown and renewed hardships have put the leadership under pressure, but the Putin model has so far proved to be resilient in the face of crises. (Résumé éditeur)

With the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, a major turning point in all former Soviet republics, Central Asian and Caucasian countries began to reflect on their history and identities. As a consequence of their opening up to the global exchange of ideas, various strains of Islam and trends in Islamic thought have nourished the Islamic revival that had already started in the context of glasnost and perestroika—from Turkey, Iran, the Arabian Peninsula, and from the Indian subcontinent; the four regions with strong ties to Central Asian and Caucasian Islam in the years before Soviet occupation. Bayram Balci seeks to analyse how these new Islamic influences have reached local societies and how they have interacted with pre-existing religious belief and practice. Combining exceptional erudition with rare first-hand research, Balci’s book provides a sophisticated account of both the internal dynamics and external influences in the evolution of Islam in the region.

Pakistan was born as the creation of elite Urdu-speaking Muslims who sought to govern a state that would maintain their dominance. After rallying non-Urdu speaking leaders around him, Jinnah imposed a unitary definition of the new nation state that obliterated linguistic diversity. This centralisation — ‘justified’ by the Indian threat — fostered centrifugal forces that resulted in Bengali secessionism in 1971 and Baloch, as well as Mohajir, separatisms today. Concentration of power in the hands of the establishment remained the norm, and while authoritarianism peaked under military rule, democracy failed to usher in reform, and the rule of law remained fragile at best under Zulfikar Bhutto and later Nawaz Sharif. While Jinnah and Ayub Khan regarded religion as a cultural marker, since their time theIslamists have gradually prevailed. They benefited from the support of General Zia, while others, including sectarian groups, cashed in on their struggle against the establishment to woo the disenfranchised. Today, Pakistan faces existential challenges ranging from ethnic strife to Islamism, two sources of instability which hark back to elite domination. But the resilience of the country and its people, the resolve of the judiciary and hints of reform in the army may open.

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Contemporary Yemen has an image problem. It has long fascinated travellers and artists, and to many embodies both Arab and Muslim authenticity; it stands at important geostrategic and commercial crossroads. Yet, strangely, global perceptions of Yemen are of an entity that is somehow both marginal and passive, yet also dangerous and problematic. The Saudi offensive launched in 2015 has made Yemen a victim of regional power struggles, while the global ‘war on terror’ has labelled it a threat to international security. This perception has had disastrous effects without generating real interest in the country or its people. On the contrary, Yemen’s complex political dynamics have been largely ignored by international observers—resulting in problematic, if not counterproductive, international policies. Yemen and the World offers a corrective to these misconceptions and omissions, putting aside the nature of the world’s interest in Yemen to focus on Yemen’s role on the global stage. Laurent Bonnefoy uses six areas of modern international exchange—globalisation, diplomacy, trade, migration, culture and militant Islamism—to restore Yemen to its place at the heart of contemporary affairs. To understand Yemen, he argues, is to understand the Middle East as a whole.

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Although Iran’s Islamic Revolution had an electrifying effect on Shiite movements in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, there exists a tendency to explain away much of Shiite politics in the Middle East as inextricably linked to Iranian foreign policy. Laurence Louër challenges this view, arguing that, in the end, local political imperatives have been the crucial factor determining the direction of Shiite states in the Middle East. In this timely book, completed before the current outbreak of unrest in Bahrain that has formed part of the Arab Spring, Laurence Louër explains, the background of the Bahraini conflict in the context of the wider issue of Shiism as a political force in the Arab Middle East, amongst other issues relating to the role of Shiite Islamist movements in regional politics. Her study shows how Bahrain’s troubles are a phenomenon based on local perceptions of injustice rather than on the foreign policy of Shiite Iran. More generally, the book shows that, though Iran’s Islamic Revolution had an electrifying effect on Shiite movements in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, local political imperatives have in the end been the crucial factor in the direction they have taken. In addition, the overwhelming influence of the Shiite clerical institution has been diminished by the rise to prominence of lay activists within the Shiite movements across the Middle East and the emergence of Shiite anti-clericalism. This book contributes to dispelling the myth of the determining power of Iran in the politics of Iraq, Bahrain and other Arab states with significant Shiite populations. (Résumé éditeur)

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