The Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS) aims to foster scholarship and dialogue about Syria and exchanges between Syrian and British scholars and others. It undertakes research on recent and contemporary Syria, contributes to the training of Syrian scholars, and seeks to compile and disseminate information on Syria expressive of a plurality of viewpoints. Toward these ends, the CSS publishes books and reports; an online, open-access, peer-reviewed journal; Syria Blog where CSS affiliated scholars share regular analysis of the evolving situation in Syria; and an e-library where studies by our scholars are archived.
Special Announcements and Posts
Raymond Hinnebusch and Ola Rifai, Understanding Syria’s Sectarian Wave
E-International relations, May 9, 2021
The sectarian wave that has swept over MENA since the Arab Uprisings has profoundly reshaped regional politics. Syria has become an epicentre of sectarian conflict that has drawn in sectarian actors from without and spilled out over the region. It is therefore a sort of laboratory in which we can explore the dynamics of sectarianism in the region. Understanding the Syrian case requires some engagement with the theoretical debates on sectarianization. The main debate is: to what extent does sectarian identity determine political interests, strategies, alignments and conflicts and to what extent is sectarianization an outcome of these factors? This essay proposes a theoretical framework for understanding this and illustrates it with empirical material from the Syria case.
November 2021: Council for British Research in the Levant AGM Lecture 2021: Raymond Hinnebusch, The metamorphising struggle for Syria: proxy war, sanctions and stalled reconstruction
Syria’s conflict has metamorphised into a hybrid: a partially frozen proxy war over territory combined with a battle over sanctions and reconstruction. This lecture will explore three aspects of this contest. The lecture will look at the stalemated proxy war; the effort of the regime to use reconstruction to consolidate its power and marginalise opposition and the US effort to obstruct this. At stake is whether Syria’s sovereignty will survive and in what form or whether it’s statehood will further fail, with likely waves of spill-over to neighbours. But Syria is also a test case of the global order: whether the US can use its dominance of the world financial system to sustain its world hegemony or whether its reinvention as a “sanctions hegemon” is the last episode in the transition to a multipolar world.Watch the video by pasting in your browser: https://cbrl.ac.uk/event/metamorphizing-struggle-for-syria/
Celebrating the launch of Social Change in Syria: Family, Village and Political Party by Syrian anthropologist Sulayman Khalaf
Moderators: Raymond Hinnebusch and Maria Kastrinou
Dr Sulayman Khalaf’s long-awaited book Social Change in Syria: Family, Village and Political Party (Routledge 2020) is a remarkable anthropological account of social change in a Northern Syrian village in the 20th century. The study, interweaving ethnography and social history, is based on Khalaf’s unpublished (but hugely influential) 1981 PhD thesis, and it has quietly awaited publication for over 40 years. Finally, this work is published, and no doubt it will become indispensable to anyone wishing to understand Syria, but also to the anthropology of the Middle East, and the complex processes of social change.
See the book here: https://www.routledge.com/Social-Change-in-Syria-Family-Village-and-Political-Party/Khalaf/p/book/9780367506261
See video of the session here: https://youtu.be/TYbw75bSWK4
See commentary on the book here:
June 2021, Report of the research project of CSS Fellow, Dr Tamara al-Om, with the Council of British Research in the Levant:
This project, part of Tamara Al-Omm’s PhD research, aimed at understanding the mechanisms through which Syrian civil society remained active despite the exile and displacement of the majority of its intelligentsia. This research is based on in-depth interviews with Syrian artists, writers, activists, intellectuals and organisations in Beirut and Istanbul. See the full report at:
December 2020 – Policy Briefs on The Syria at War: Eight Years On Report
The “Syria at War: Eight Years On” report is the second product of the collaboration between the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS) at the University of St Andrews. It is the result of extensive research by scholars and experts and benefited from the National Agenda for the Future of Syria (NAFS) Programme’s platform for technical dialogue between a broad spectrum of Syrian stakeholders aimed at moving towards consensus beyond the polarizations of the conflict period.
Almost a decade of conflict has radically transformed all aspects of Syrian society. The purpose of this report is to trace these transformations at social, economic and governance levels. It provides a framework for moving forward, proposing principles, priorities and pragmatic steps toward an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and peacebuilding process.