Document Type



The ongoing civil war in Syria is characterized by its inherent complexity, often leaving non-Syrian onlookers and geopolitical stakeholders confused and fatigued. In a war with such a high human toll—refugees hemorrhaging from Syria’s borders, the death toll ever-climbing, and a generation of children growing up with the fighting—there is no room for mystification. This research project contextualizes the Syrian Civil War using anthropological concepts of religion and ethnicity. The ways in which religion and ethnicity help construct identity and group loyalty among Syria’s diverse population are examined. In particular, the role of membership in specific identity groups in creating difference and drawing group boundaries are examined. Primary data in the form of semi-structured interviews are combined with secondary research drawing upon anthropological theory, ethnography, and historical literature. This study shows how group boundary construction is an organic result of war, but also reveals how group differences can be deliberately highlighted by conflict stakeholders in order to codify or redefine inter-factional relationships. Through an intimate understanding of how group identity construction and reconstruction can be used as a tool of war, the international community will be able to anticipate further developments in Syria, thus directing attention to conflict mediation, negotiation, and peace-building efforts.



Thesis Comittee

Sandra Faiman-Silva (Thesis Director)

Jabbar Al-Obaidi

Curtiss Hoffman

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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

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