Unpacking a puzzling case: On how the Yemeni conflict became sectarianised

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This article is featured in the ORIENT II 2018

Yemen constitutes in many ways a puzzling case in the broader debate on Shia/Sunni sectarianism in a ‘new Middle East.’ Contrary to what one might expect from its demography, it has historically not been a hotbed for sectarian conflicts, and against this background, it is surprising how sectarianism has become one – of many – dimensions in the Yemeni conflict since the Arab uprisings. By drawing on analytical tools from the broader debate on sectarianism, which are used as complementary layers of explanation, the article shows how it is necessary to examine the complex interplay between drivers and actors placed at regional, state, regime and society levels in order to provide a nuanced understanding of how and why this sectarianisation took place.

Morten Valbjørn is Associate Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University and head of the research project ‘SWAR: Sectarianism in the Wake of the Arab Revolts’. His research has appeared in, among others: Democratization, Review of International Studies, International Studies Review, PS: Political Science & Politics; Middle East Critique, Middle East Report, International Review of Sociology, Mediterranean Politics, Cooperation & Conflict, Journal of Mediterranean Studies, and Foreign Policy.

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