Panel 1B

Workers, Elites and Identity in Lebanon

10.45 – 12.45
Chair: Ersun Kurtulus, TED University

 From Disenfranchisement to Wealth: The Invention of a Shiite Bourgeoisie in Lebanon between Education, Diaspora, Remittances and Unrepentant Neoliberal Practices

Omar Bortolazzi, American University in Dubai

This work analyses the making of the Shiite middle- and upper/entrepreneurial-class in Lebanon from the 1960s till the present day. The trajectory explores the historical, political and social (internal and external) factors that brought a sub-proletariat to mobilise and become an entrepreneurial bourgeoisie in the span of less than three generations.

This paper proposes the main theoretical hypothesis to unpack and reveal the trajectory of a very recent social class that through education, migration, political and social mobilisation evolved in a few years into a very peculiar bourgeoisie: whereas Christian-Maronite middle class practically produced political formations and benefited from them and from Maronite’s state supremacy (National Pact, 1943) reinforcing the community’s status quo, Shiites built their own bourgeoisie from within, and mobilised their cadres not just to benefit from their renovated presence at the state level, but to oppose to it. The general Social Movement Theory (SMT), as well as a vast amount of the literature on class formation are therefore largely contradicted, opening up new territories for discussion on how to build a bourgeoisie without the state’s support (Social Mobilisation Theory, Re- source Mobilisation Theory) and if, eventually, the middle class always produces democratic movements (the emergence of a social group out of backwardness and isolation into near dominance of a political order).

The social class described here is at once an economic class related to the control of multiple forms of capital (and neoliberal practices), and produced by local, national, and transnational networks related to flows of services, money, and remittances. What is the social, political and spatial status of this ‘new’ (entrepreneurial) bourgeoisie? How does kinship, class affiliation, ethnicity and identity influence the transformation of capitals? (‘the sect as a class’). How did the Lebanese confessional groups re-organised and reshuffled the capitals (P. Bourdieu) accumulated through migration, diaspora remittances and diaspora enterprises?

Emergent Civil Identities in Lebanon: Mobilisation Against and Within the Sectarian Hegemony

Ana Almuedo-Castillo, University of Exeter

‘Civil’ practices and acts of citizenship have become a form of contestation to the assigned and long-established identities and social categories in Lebanon. Activists and multiple individuals involved in these practices both in an individual and collective basis are constantly challenging the confines of sectarianism as the singular definer of political identities. These civil forms of mobilisation and contestation have shaped new political identities, which at the same time are creating new paradigms of citizenship and organisation. From the visible mobilisation of ‘You Stink’ to the everyday acts of resistance of civil marriages, Lebanese have become social actors against sectarian modes of interaction and institutionalisation. The emerging political identities defining social actors have contested the political hegemony of sectarianism, creating the paradigm of ‘civil’ contestation. However, even anti-sectarian movements in Lebanon are embedded in the same hegemonic structure that they contest: the discourses developed by these anti-sectarian individuals reveal a conscious self-positioning outside the sectarian modes of affiliation, whereas they remained trapped in the dominant structure of sectarianism, as well as patriarchy and neoliberalism. Far from intending to impose academically the paradigm of sectarianism, this paper explores the dynamics of cultural hegemony and power in the event of mobilisations and resistance. The study of civil resistance and mobilisation helps our understanding of power asymmetries of sectarianism; not as a fixed political category, but as a paradigm that is constantly challenged and reformed, in a triangular interdependence with emerging political identities and mobilisation.

Elite Cooperation and Collusion in Lebanon

Antonio DeMartin, University of Kent; Ersun Kurtulus, TED University

Lebanese politics is commonly regarded as a case of unsuccessful consociational democracy due to lack of cooperation and pervasive confrontational behavior among the political elite, where leaders of confessional groups attempt to promote their positions through sectarian transnational alliances. Such behavior, it is argued, not only makes the political system unstable and prone to crisis and civil strife, but also produces frequent, long-lasting political stalemates. This article challenges this view. At one level, such a perspective, which focuses on conflict and confrontation, is unable to explain why Lebanon, against all odds, has been able to avoid complete fragmentation and persist as a state. At another level, it misses the fact that despite the ostensibly confrontational behavior in the political arena, the Lebanese confessional leaders are engaged in intense negotiations and cooperation – even collusion – over allocation of government resources. They benefit personally from these resources by establishing patron-client relationships and creating a power base among the Lebanese citizens. Seen in this vein, elite confrontation in the political arena is often little more than a negotiation tactic and as such an integral part of elite cooperation over sharing of economic resources. The article then focuses on the dynamics of this elite cooperation and identifies two factors that emerged after 2005 as pivotal: the end of external Syrian brokerage over political and economic issues and increasingly limited government resources over which elite bargaining is taking place.

When the International is Your Home: Education for Citizenship at an IB World School in Lebanon

Iman Azzi, Institute of Education, UCL

This paper explores how education for citizenship is being taught and understood at one international school in Lebanon, which offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The IB is the largest transnational degree programme and, unlike most national curricula, the IB offers no specific citizenship course. My research has sought to explore how educators in Lebanon have adapted the IB and what lessons students are acquiring through their enrolment in an international program. Most students at the case study school have at least one Lebanese parent, although many hold a second nationality as well.  The first part of my paper explores how the demand for international education has grown among elites in the region, able to afford the tuitions and seeking to provide their children with stronger ties to a global world. It focuses on the spread of the IB and the opportunities and challenges this presents.  The second part of this paper shares observations from visits to the school. It ask how students, who would sociologically be classed as elite but are often unaware of their own socio-economic positioning, are engaging with the local, national, and international communities to which they belong, or aspire to belong. If local elites are privileging education focused on the international, how does that inform how they see their role in local communities? Ultimately, I aim to provide insights and ask questions about the relationship between identity and belonging in a global (or globalized world), class, and the future of international education in societies across the Middle East and global south.

“You Stink Too” – Palestinian Camp Dwellers in Lebanon Confront their Political Elite

Erling L. Sogge, University of Oslo

While the Lebanese garbage crisis of 2015 spurred the “you stink” campaign which raged in the streets of Beirut, Palestinian camp dwellers staged their own demonstrations targeting their respective political elites within the refugee camps. Moreover, civilians activists in the country’s largest camp, ‘Ain al-Hilweh, have recently challenged the PLO and the military groups that control its streets, by declaring their independence from factional rule by arranging democratic elections of so-called Neighborhood Committees.   Where research on refugee camps in recent years has tended to focus on the relationship between the external state and refugee populations, internal camp dynamics have often been left unexplored. This is not unrelated to the impact the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben and his concept of the “state of exception” has had on refugee studies. In this narrative it is assumed that the state’s repression of encamped refugee populations by denying them the most basic civil rights also involves an end to their existence as political beings. However, in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, which are self-governed by a multiplicity of local authorities, be they militia factions, NGOs or religious societies, this hardly seems to be the case. Building on extensive field work in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon from 2015-16, this paper attempts to move beyond Agamben’s framework by exploring how camp dwellers interact with, call out and contest the internal camp authorities.