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Middle EastThe Emergence Of Modern Nationalisms, World War I And Its Settlement, Differential Nationalist Trajectories, After Nationalism?

Nationalism is generally regarded as a recent development in the Middle East, a contingent phenomenon produced by the unique conditions of the modern era. Prior to the nineteenth century, concepts of collective identity and allegiance appear to have been defined primarily on the basis of lineage, locale, or religion—communities of sentiment and solidarity either smaller or larger than the nationalisms that subsequently emerged. For the region's agricultural and pastoralist majority, living in largely self-contained village or nomadic communities, one's clan, tribe, or village are presumed to have been the primary objects of self-identification and affiliation. For the area's literate minority, usually urban residents and immersed in a milieu dominated by religion, collective identity was defined by a combination of locale (loyalty to one's city), polity (being a member of the ruling elite), and most vitally religion (self-definition as Muslim, Christian, or Jew). Ethnic or linguistic concepts of identity, on the other hand, were conspicuous by their absence. Terminology illustrates the point. Prior to the twentieth century the word Turk denoted a rural resident of Anatolia, not a member of the educated multiethnic elite of the Ottoman Empire. In Arab usage the term Arab referred to the wild Bedouin of the desert, not the area's sophisticated urban population.

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