This month in ‘On the Bookshelf’ we feature Civilization and the Making of the State in Lebanon and Syria by Andrew Delatolla (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies). The Special Edition, Part of the Middle East Today series was published in 2021.
This book argues that the modern state, from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period, has consistently been used as a means to measure civilizational engagement and attainment. This volume historicizes this dynamic, examining how it impacted state-making in Lebanon and Syria.
By putting social, political, and economic pressure on the Ottoman Empire to replicate the modern state in Europe, the book examines processes of racialization, nationalist development, continued imperial expansion, and resistance that became embedded in the state as it was assembled. By historicizing post-imperial and post-colonial state formation in Lebanon and Syria, it is possible to engage in a conceptual separation from the modern state, abandoning the ongoing reproduction of the state as a standard, or benchmark, of civilization and progress.