Using a socio-historical approach to the study of Shiites in Saudi Arabia, this analysis demonstrates how Shiite identity took its present shape by constructing a relatively independent power field through a network of relations that allow the sect to exist as a space for political action separate from its environment, and where actors compete to represent it and assume positions of influence. This field emerged and changed through a historical process of interaction between actors within it and between them and external influences (principally the state). Focusing on the Qatif region in Saudi Arabia, the study shows that sectarian hierarchy and relations of power tend to preserve their bounds by the same act of competition. This study puts forward a relational paradigm for understanding sectarian identity by dealing with it as a dynamic result of relationships and not as a discrete analytical category. This draws attention to the fact that sectarian identity is inseparable from an infrastructure of power relations within the sect and that the phenomenon of sectarianism may at root be a precursor to the production of sectarian discourse, a discourse which when dealt with relationally will reveal its link with power relations. This conception adds a new dimension to the understanding of identity, and consequently reorders the research agenda on the subject of sectarianism. It also contributes to a rethinking of the solutions to confront the crises of identity. The author proposes that best way to changes this sectarian reality is to create alternative networks of relationships by means of civil society institutions that create fields outside the sectarian field.