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SHIʿI HISTORIANS IN A WAHHABI STATE: IDENTITY ENTREPRENEURS AND THE POLITICS OF LOCAL HISTORIOGRAPHY IN SAUDI ARABIA

Abstract
Abstract

This article analyzes how Saudi Shiʿi historians have adapted tools associated with nationalism to create distinct historical narratives for the Shiʿa of Eastern Arabia. State-sponsored narratives have either left out Shiʿi Muslims or cast them as unbelievers and alien to the Saudi body politic. In contrast, historical narratives written by Shiʿi authors emphasize the Shiʿa's long history of sedentarization, their cultural heritage, and their struggles against foreign occupation. The article is based on fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and a close reading of hundreds of articles and books on local history published mainly since the 1980s. Through the Saudi Shiʿi case, I show that “identity entrpreneurs,” or activists who create, politicize, and profit from identities to further political aims, understand local historiography to be crucial to their overall projects.

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Toby Matthiesen is a Research Fellow at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK; e-mail: mtm42@cam.ac.uk
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Max Weiss , “The Historiography of Sectarianism in Lebanon,” History Compass 7 (2009): 141–54

Eric Davis , Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005)

Madawi al-Rasheed , “The Shia of Saudi Arabia: A Minority in Search of Cultural Authenticity,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 25 (1998): 124

Toby Matthiesen , “Hizbullah al-Hijaz: A History of the Most Radical Saudi Shiʿa Opposition Group,” Middle East Journal 64 (2010): 189

Toby Matthiesen , “Mysticism, Migration and Clerical Networks: Ahmad al-Ahsaʾi and the Shaykhis of al-Ahsa, Kuwait and Basra,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 34 (2014): 386409

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International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
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