On the traumatic origins of political community in modern Syria
Casey, James Francis Byrne
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This project offers an alternative perspective on the appearance of new forms of political community, types of social solidarities, and intellectual spaces in the French Mandate in Syria. Most previous scholarship on this period pivots on the presumption of once-and-future nationalisms as the driving historical force. The argument here articulates this history by reinscribing it into a wartime and postwar landscape of physical destruction and mass social, intellectual, and economic trauma. Through a close examination of wide variety of French and Arabic primary sources, this project emphasizes the traumatic origins of political communities and solidarities in the space of historic Greater Syria especially the area of the French Mandate of Syria. Arising initially out of the mass physical and institutional destruction of the First World War, this situation was reified by the persistence of manifold forms of French physical, economic, and intellectual violence. While recognizing the eventual nationalist historical outcomes, this project challenges the accepted primacy of its role in defining the historical period it emerged out of. The driving historical force in this period was not an amorphous nationalism but a shattered society’s intense political, social, economic, and intellectual anxieties about their current and future place in a vastly changed world. This defined the political shape Syria would assume and better explains how Syria and the region as a whole arrived at a nationalist historical outcome.