Making and Transcending Boundaries: The Effect of Ritual on the Nationalism among Dominant and Subordinate Ethnicities in the Near East

Jabbarli, Ramin. 2021. "Making and Transcending Boundaries: The Effect of Ritual on the Nationalism among Dominant and Subordinate Ethnicities in the Near East." M.A. Thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Washington.
Committee: 
Edgar Kiser (Chair), Steven Pfaff.

Researchers have examined the role of dividing factors such as occupational structure, economic discrimination, competition, and political recognition of ethnicities on the level of dominant and subordinate ethnicities’ national pride. However, the mediating impact of solidarity factors such as ritualistic interactions on this process is understudied. Investigating the mediating effect of Shia and Sunni rituals, I find that knowing the characteristic of rituals could explain the gap between dominant and subordinate ethnicities’ national pride, as an indicator of subjective belonging to a national state. The collectively practiced, emotionally intense Shia rituals create social situations which lead to interethnic solidarity and alleviation of ethnic grievances. This solidarity spillovers into national pride and facilitates the formation of supra-identity, while individually practiced rituals fail to do so and as a result the gap between the national pride of ethnicities widens. To understand the role of religious rituals in ethnically diverse and predominantly Muslim-populated Turkey and Iran, I develop a theory of interethnic solidarity.  I find that the absence of cross-ethnic ties forged through intense rituals results in lower levels of Sunni Kurds national pride and a wider gap with the national pride expressed by Turks in Turkey. However, practicing frequent intense rituals that transcend ethnic boundaries and alleviate ethnic grievances increases the national pride of Shia Kurds in Iran and reduces the national pride gap with members of the dominant Persian ethnicity. The descriptions of the rituals come from sociological, anthropological and religious works. In the statistical analysis, I mainly use data from the sixth wave of Social Values Survey (2011) for Turkey and the third wave Iranian Attitudes and Values (2015) to explain the determinants of national identification.