Racializing Religion: Constructing Colonial Identities in the Syrian Provinces in the Nineteenth Century

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Political Science Department

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Andrew Delatolla, Joanne Yao

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Research Article

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International Studies Review

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In recent decades, international events and incisive critical voices have catapulted the concepts of race and religion to the foreground of International Relations research. In particular, scholars have sought to recover the racialized and imperial beginnings of IR as an academic discipline in the early-20th century. This article contributes to this growing body of work by analyzing both race and religion as conceptual tools of scientific imperial administration—tools that in the 19th century classified and divided the global periphery along a continuum of civilizational and developmental difference. The article then applies this framework to the case of French, and more broadly, European, relations with populations in the Ottoman Empire, particularly within the Syrian Provinces. As described throughout this article and the case study, the Europeans used the language of race to contribute to religious hierarchies in the Syrian provinces in the mid- and late-19th century, having a lasting effect on discussions of religion in IR and international politics.

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