SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar examines 40 years of violent rule in Syria

16 November 2018

Salwa Ismail, Professor of Politics with reference to the Middle East at SOAS University of London, has published her new book which examines the centrality of violence to the Asad regime over a 40-year period and demonstrates how this governmental violence laid the ground for breaking the country apart.

The Rule of Violence provides insights into the conditions that entrenched polarisation and division among Syrians. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and interviews carried out in Syria between 2005 and 2011, a key question the book asks is how the regime’s practices of violence were formative of Syrian political subjectivities, and what effect this violence had at the level of society and the individual.

Professor Ismail said: “I wanted to show how ordinary citizens experienced everyday life under the Asad regime in Syria and how it felt to be a subject of this regime. Governing through violence in Syria takes spectacular form in and through the technologies of the massacre and the detention camp.  It also takes more routine forms in everyday practices and mundane interactions in sites like the school and the family.”

Marc Lynch, The George Washington University, and author of The New Arab Wars:  Anarchy and Uprising in the Middle East: “The Rule of Violence offers a sophisticated, innovative and powerful examination of the manifold ways in which violence shaped modern Syria.

“Ismail's theoretically engaged and richly informed narrative traces the deep impact on Syria's citizens of state violence, from the intimate horrors of prison torture and the mass atrocities of the 1982 devastation of Hama to the brutal wars following the uprising of 2011. Ranging from politics and war to literature and popular culture, it stands as a critical contribution to our understanding of the deep legacies of authoritarian state violence.”

Professor Ismail will launch the book at SOAS on 19 November at 7pm in the Alumni Lecture Theatre and will be joined by Dr Michelle Obeid, Lecturer in Social Anthropology at University of Manchester and Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS.