We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Debating ‘Religious Violence’ in Lebanon: A Comparative Perspective on the Mobilisation of Religious and Secular Militias during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990)

VOSTERMANS, LIANNE,PETRONELLA,ELISE (2020) Debating ‘Religious Violence’ in Lebanon: A Comparative Perspective on the Mobilisation of Religious and Secular Militias during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis_Vostermans) - Accepted Version


In a world where collective violence seems increasingly mapped in relation to religions and religious actors rather than secular forces, to understand the potential of religion in promoting conflict has become a formidable and important goal. On the one hand, there are those that argue that ‘religious violence’ is not really religious and at most a perversion of religious teachings. On the other side of the spectrum, an increasing number of commentaries conclude with urgent warnings against religion’s propensity for violence. Rather than taking sides in a debate characterised by sweeping generalisations, this dissertation aims to unravel how, when and at what levels religion can play a role in the social and political mobilisation towards violence, while comparing these mechanisms to non-religious equivalents. A Social Movement Theory (SMT) framework is adopted to analyse the mobilisation processes in four diversely oriented militia movements active in the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990): the Kataeb, the Amal movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party. The thesis makes empirical and theoretical contributions on three analytical levels. At the macro-level, the thesis demonstrates how religion co-determined the character of the socio-political context, economic relations, foreign influence, and security issues, against which militia movements emerged as competing forces. The adaptation of critical realism aids in conceptualising the interdependence between these different factors as well as between the analytical levels. At the meso-level it shows how the cooperation and incorporation of religious resources involved significant re-imaginations of prevailing hierarchies and structures – an observation that should change the manner in which we theorise about religion as a resource for mobilisation. Analysing the speech of militia leaders, using the psychometric of integrative complexity, the thesis further demonstrates that no significant differences exist between the relative complexity of religious and non-religious idea structures. IC’s focus on cognitive structures adds an innovative edge to SMT. At the micro-level, augmenting SMT by incorporating insights from the field of social psychology, the thesis evidences how religion played a role in social identification and a mediating role in existential anxiety. Simultaneously, the dissertation cautions that the role of religion is in most instances similar to the role of non-religious counterparts. The research thereby complicates generalising theories on ‘religious violence’, presenting the social mobilisation towards violence as contingent on a complex mix of religious and non-religious ideas, societal structures, available resources, leadership attitudes, social identifications and personal affections.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Social Movement Theory, Religious Violence, Lebanon, Civil War, Integrative Complexity, Emotions in War
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jul 2020 09:11

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter