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From Millet to Nation: The Limits of Consociational Resolutions for Middle East Conflict

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  • Sarah Shields
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    This paper argues that Europeans worked to transform the bases for group affiliation in territories of the former Ottoman Empire, insisting on national and linguistic self-identification that created dissonance among the population. Focusing on the decades between the two World Wars, when the new Middle Eastern borders were being created and contested, the paper analyzes two episodes in which the League of Nations sought to document the identity of Middle Eastern populations in order to allocate contested territory: the Sanjak Question (Alexandretta) and the Mosul Question. Each province was home to a population diverse in language and religion; in each, the League of Nations intervened to insist that one or another group must be predominant. Instead of creating a consociational or federal system, each episode resulted in one group satisfied and the other group becoming a minority. The sorts of identities which the League of Nations privileged had little meaning before mid-century, when the new governments they created began to adhere to ideologies that reified nation and exploited the new fault lines for their own political benefit.

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    Paper provided by European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS) in its series EUI-RSCAS Working Papers with number 84.

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    Date of creation: 15 Oct 2010
    Handle: RePEc:erp:euirsc:p0272
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