Decolonising the study of state : a neo-K̲h̲aldūnian perspective on authority, violence and resistance

  • Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed Abozaid

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis is occupied with answering the following question: Why do the States kill their citizens? Or, what propels state violence and the suppression of political dissents? By emphasising on the Islamicate world I argue that the durability of state violence, which is mainly the result of the state/authority’s fear of the transformative power of the population, can be explained via (new)interpretations of the 14th-century historian ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Ibn Kh̲̲aldūn’s thought. Ibn K̲h̲aldūn claimed that states were fundamentally established and consolidated upon violent and repressive foundations, or what I call the K̲h̲aldūnian trilogy of ʿasabiyya, al-shāwkāh, and al ghālābāh wa al-qāhr (i.e., the dominant groups, force majeure, repression, and domination).
Moreover, he claimed that the main tool that constituted and consolidated the authority of the ʿasabiyya has been the excessive use of violence and coercion. This violence took two main intertwined forms: (1) physical, which conducted by the police and the army; (2) discursive, via the systematic process of politicization of Sharia rules and law.

To understand the dynamics of state-society relations in the Islamicate World apart from colonial knowledge, I present a theoretical conversation between Ibn K̲h̲aldūn and Walter Benjamin’s rechtsetzende and rechtserhaltende Gewalt (or lawmaking and lawpreserving violence) on one hand, and Max Weber on the other hand, on state violence and how the state acts towards the opposition and those who challenge its authority. Additionally, to unpack the relationship among Sharia, authority, and resistance, I build on Ibn K̲h̲aldūn’s notions to dismantle Weberian presuppositions on state, violence, and legitimacy. Besides Ibn K̲h̲aldūn the thesis primarily rests on Edward Said’s travelling theory, which is used to trace the modern readings of Ibn K̲h̲aldūn and examine its relevancy and applicability in unpacking the articulation between Western/colonial laws and the Islamic tradition of governance.

This thesis inverts the concentration (in both theory and practice) on non-European authorities and offers an alternative reading of the state’s monopoly of violence that, in its conceptualization, breaks the colonial predominance. This is a critical inquiry that reviews the history of state violence, questioning and challenging the official narrative concerning the methods of its use
against those who challenge authority. Therefore, instead of adopting or reproducing official narratives, the thesis deconstructs them. Moreover, it presents a critical exploration and radical counter-narrative of the history of Islamicate authority.
Date of Award13 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAnthony F Lang Jr. (Supervisor), Karin Marie Fierke (Supervisor) & Bruce Robert Hoffman (Supervisor)


  • International relations
  • Political theory
  • Comparative politics
  • Sociology
  • State theory
  • Violence
  • Authority
  • Legitimacy

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 1 September 2027

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