Patriliny and Modern States in the Middle East

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Drawing on anthropological theories of patrilineal kinship, I argue that patriliny is integral to conceptions of citizenship and group membership in the Middle East, and that it strongly influences ideas and practices pertaining to the state and nation there. The modern state was supposed to offer a new understanding of the body politic not drawn from concepts of autochthony or familial relationships. However, since the founding of the modern Middle Eastern states by European powers and local elites following WWI, Middle Eastern leaders have often drawn on, rather than turned away from, such concepts in their promotion of the modern. Despite doing so in diverse ways, patriliny is a thread through many of their narratives. European colonizers also worked to uphold patriliny even as they decried some of its concomitants, helping to produce what might be called, “ironic citizenship regimes.” Many of those regimes faced protest and dissent in the “Arab Spring, " which gave way to state fragmentation in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere. Some of the linkages between patrilineal and state concepts and structures that were invoked and created in the 20th century are now integral to changes to the Middle Eastern state taking place in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationState Formations
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Histories and Cultures of Statehood
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781108241380
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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