Power of Association: Shiite quietism and activism in the Middle East

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


At a time in which Shi’ism is in the ascendance in the Middle East, this study challenges much recent research and writing on contemporary regional politics by questioning the notion that a meaningful distinction can be drawn between quietism and activism among Shiite clerical elites. In challenging the nature of this supposed difference, this research tries to explore Shiite clerical political responses to, and involvement in, three key political events: Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. It draws on archival material including personal letters, telegrams, newspaper reports, records of political statements delivered by Shiite clerics at the commencement of their daily lectures in religious seminaries, and public manifestos of key clerics and groups relating to these three events; as well as over 300 hours of recorded interviews with key Shiite religious leaders and those closely associated with them from all three countries. In explanation of when, where, and why clerical elites assume an active role in the political arena, this thesis makes a contribution, not only to the understanding of Shiite clerical elite activism; it also employs a framework that contributes to social movement theory by employing a notion of ‘political opportunity structure’ that captures the interaction between perception and objective factors. Its main finding is that the responses of clerical elites to key political events arise not from doctrinal differences, but from contextual factors and the perceptions that those clerics formed of them.   
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Halperin, Sandra, Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Feb 2016

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