In the Middle East and elsewhere in the Global South, ethnic and religious groups provide social welfare alongside or in the place of states. To analyze sectarianism through the lens of social welfare, this talk focuses on the varying welfare distribution strategies of Christian, Shia Muslim, and Sunni Muslim political parties in Lebanon, where social service provision is a terrain of political contestation. Why do some “sectarian” providers distribute welfare goods broadly, even to non-coreligionists, while others allocate services more narrowly? Based on extensive field research and diverse forms of quantitative and qualitative data, this research unpacks the political logics of the distribution of social goods by sectarian organizations. Non-state welfare performs a critical function in the absence of capable state institutions, but it comes at a price. When partisanship and ethnic or religious identity mediate access to welfare, social divisions and inequalities can emerge or become further entrenched. Beyond caring for the needy, service provision by sectarian groups may also sustain competing visions of the polity and introduce new dimensions of social inequalities.
Melani Cammett is Associate Professor of Political Science, the Dupee Faculty Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, and a faculty associate at the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University. Her first book, Globalization and Business Politics in North Africa: A Comparative Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2007), analyzes the impact of globalization on state-business relations in Morocco and Tunisia. Cammett’s second book, Welfare and Sectarianism in Divided Societies, explores how sectarian organizations allocate social welfare goods and is based on extensive research in Lebanon with short case studies of organizations in Iraq and India. An article based on this research won the 2011 Alexander L. George Award of the Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research Section of the American Political Science Association. A co-edited book manuscript, “The Politics of Non-State Social Welfare in the Global South,” examines the origins, evolution and consequences of non-state welfare provision for state-building and human security in diverse regions. Her new research project explores governance and the politics of social service provision by Islamists and other public and private actors in the Middle East. Cammett’s articles have appeared in World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Studies in Comparative International Development, Comparative Politics, World Development, and other journals and publications. Cammett holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on comparative politics, the political economy of development, research design, and Middle East politics.
Sponsors: WCED, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies