Agents of Violence

Non-Governmental Armed Forces in Southwest Asia, North Africa and beyond


The violent conflicts of recent decades in Southwest Asia, North Africa and adjacent regions are often read in terms of the conventional parameters of an international order of sovereign nation states. However, in recent years, non-governmental armed forces have emerged to play an increasingly significant role in the political, social and military fields of the region. These forces are usually analyzed as isolated actors, operating in their respective local or regional spheres, without attention to wider structural commonalities. The aim of this volume is to examine these groups not only as military actors, but also as forces of social significance, indicative of substantial historical shifts relating to notions of sovereignty, beyond the usual prioritization of the state. Comparing the nature, operation and discourses of such forces allows for new understandings of their social impact, beyond common reductionist approaches of securitized worldviews and essentializing lines of inquiry centered on religion.

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Rüdiger Lohlker is a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Vienna. His fields of research include the history of Islamic ideas, Arab and Islamic world online, and modern Islamic movements. Katharina Ivanyi is a historian of Islam with interests in Islamic law, theology, Sufism and contemporary Islamic political thought. She is currently an Elise Richter Fellow at the institute for oriental studies at the University of Vienna.
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