New Books Network

Ussama Makdisi

Age of Coexistence

The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World

University of California Press 2019

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network October 9, 2019 Joshua Donovan

Building on nearly two decades of scholarship about sectarianism and communal relations in the Modern Middle East, Ussama Makdisi’s latest book, Age of Coexistence: The...

Building on nearly two decades of scholarship about sectarianism and communal relations in the Modern Middle East, Ussama Makdisi’s latest book, Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World (University of California Press, 2019) dispels the myth that the Middle East is inherently or inescapably sectarian and complicates the often overstated binary of “secular” and religious. Makdisi proposes a new paradigm for understanding the myriad visions of anti-sectarianism and pluralism in the region, which he calls “the ecumenical frame.” This capacious “ecumenical frame” includes political leaders and activists, intellectual elites, and ordinary people who worked – and still work – toward peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. Forged in the crucible of 19th century violence and political reform, this desire to reconcile the promises of unity and equal citizenship with the remarkable diversity of the Arab world has withstood war, colonialism, and authoritarian rule. Age of Coexistence offers a provocative engagement with existing literature on sectarianism, secularism, colonialism, and Arab nationalism in a way that is also accessible to a wider, non-scholarly audience.

Ussama Makdisi is a Professor of History and the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University and a visiting professor at the University of California Berkeley. He is the author of a number of groundbreaking studies on the history of religion and politics in the Modern Middle East, including The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000), Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press, 2008), and Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001 (Public Affairs Books, 2010).


Joshua Donovan is a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Department of History. His dissertation examines competing conceptions of identity and subjectivity within the Greek Orthodox Christian community in Syria, Lebanon, and the diaspora.