Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon

LAU Beirut Campus - AKSOB 903

The Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University is pleased to invite you to a Panel Discussion on Maya Mikdashi’s book

Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism, and the State in Lebanon

The Lebanese state is structured through religious freedom and secular power sharing across sectarian groups. Every sect has specific laws that govern kinship matters like marriage or inheritance. Together with criminal and civil laws, these laws regulate and produce political difference. But whether women or men, Muslims or Christians, queer or straight, all people in Lebanon have one thing in common—they are biopolitical subjects forged through bureaucratic, ideological, and legal techniques of the state.

With this book, Maya Mikdashi offers a new way to understand state power, theorizing how sex, sexuality, and sect shape and are shaped by law, secularism, and sovereignty. Drawing on court archives, public records, and ethnography of the Court of Cassation, the highest civil court in Lebanon, Mikdashi shows how political difference is entangled with religious, secular, and sexual differences. She presents state power as inevitably contingent, like the practices of everyday life it engenders, focusing on the regulation of religious conversion, the curation of legal archives, state and parastatal violence, and secular activism. Sextarianism locates state power in the experiences, transitions, uprisings, and violence that people in the Middle East continue to live.

About the Author: 

Maya Mikdashi (BA ‘00) is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a Lecturer in the Program for Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Columbia University, and also holds an MA from Georgetown University and a BA from the Lebanese American University.

Mikdashi has been a Mellon Fellow, a Faculty Fellow at NYU, and has been granted research grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Middle East Research Commission, and Council/Ashkal Alwan. She is the author of Sextarianism: Sovereignty, Secularism and the State in Lebanon (Stanford University Press, 2022). Mikdashi has been published in several peer reviewed journals, including the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, the Journal of Palestine Studies, and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. She has also been published in edited academic volumes from Stanford University Press, UCLA Press and Oxford University Press, and in public facing venues. Mikdashi’s scholarship has been translated into Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Spanish, French and German.

Mikdashi is also a co-founding editor of Jadaliyya, an electronic outlet dedicated to public scholarship, and scholarly journalism on the contemporary, transnational Middle East. She shares editorial responsibility for content related to gender and sexuality, and to Lebanon, and is a frequent contributor to Jadaliyya.

She is a co-director of the feature-length documentary film About Baghdad (2003), Director of the documentary film Notes on the War (2006), and Assistant Director, Editor, and Cinematographer of the documentary series What is Said About Arabs and Terrorism (2007). In 2015 she collaborated with Carlos Motta on his film Deseosرغبات, which she co-wrote and performed in. Before pursuing graduate school in the United States, Mikdashi worked in the television industry in Lebanon.