Since the American University of Beirut opened its doors in 1866, the campus has stood at the intersection of a rapidly changing American educational project for the Middle East and an ongoing student quest for Arab national identity and empowerment. Betty S. Anderson provides a unique and comprehensive analysis of how the school shifted from a missionary institution providing a curriculum in Arabic to one offering an English-language American liberal education extolling freedom of speech and analytical discovery.
Anderson discusses how generations of students demanded that they be considered legitimate voices of authority over their own education; increasingly, these students sought to introduce into their classrooms the real-life political issues raging in the Arab world. The Darwin Affair of 1882, the introduction of coeducation in the 1920s, the Arab nationalist protests of the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the even larger protests of the 1970s all challenged the Americans and Arabs to fashion an educational program relevant to a student body constantly bombarded with political and social change. Anderson reveals that the two groups chose to develop a program that combined American goals for liberal education with an Arab student demand that the educational experience remain relevant to their lives outside the school's walls. As a result, in eras of both cooperation and conflict, the American leaders and the students at the school have made this American institution of the Arab world and of Beirut.
Disruptive Situations challenges representations of contemporary Beirut as an exceptional space for LGBTQ people by highlighting everyday life in a city where violence is the norm. Ghassan Moussawi, a Beirut native, seeks to uncover the underlying processes of what he calls “fractal orientalism,” a relational understanding of modernity and cosmopolitanism that illustrates how transnational discourses of national and sexual exceptionalism operate on multiple scales in the Arab world.
Moussawi’s intrepid ethnography features the voices of women, gay men and genderqueers in Beirut to examine how queer individuals negotiate life in this uncertain region. He examines “al-wad’,” or “the situation,” to understand the practices that form these strategies and to raise questions about queer-friendly spaces in and beyond Beirut.
Disruptive Situations alsoshows how LGBTQ Beirutis resist reconciliation narratives and position their identities and visibility at different times as ways of simultaneously managing their multiple positionalities and al-wad’. Moussawi argues that the daily survival strategies in Beirut are queer—and not only enacted by LGBTQ people—since Beirutis are living amidst an already queer situation of ongoing precarity.
Fifteen years after the end of a protracted civil and regional war, Beirut broke out in violence once again, forcing residents to contend with many forms of insecurity, amid an often violent political and economic landscape. Providing a picture of what ordinary life is like for urban dwellers surviving sectarian violence, The Insecure City captures the day-to-day experiences of citizens of Beirut moving through a war-torn landscape.
While living in Beirut, Kristin Monroe conducted interviews with a diverse group of residents of the city. She found that when people spoke about getting around in Beirut, they were also expressing larger concerns about social, political, and economic life. It was not only violence that threatened Beirut’s ordinary residents, but also class dynamics that made life even more precarious. For instance, the installation of checkpoints and the rerouting of traffic—set up for the security of the elite—forced the less fortunate to alter their lives in ways that made them more at risk. Similarly, the ability to pass through security blockades often had to do with an individual’s visible markers of class, such as clothing, hairstyle, and type of car. Monroe examines how understandings and practices of spatial mobility in the city reflect social differences, and how such experiences led residents to be bitterly critical of their government.
In The Insecure City, Monroe takes urban anthropology in a new and meaningful direction, discussing traffic in the Middle East to show that when people move through Beirut they are experiencing the intersection of citizen and state, of the more and less privileged, and, in general, the city’s politically polarized geography.
By Sofian Merabet University of Texas Press, 2014 Library of Congress HQ76.2.L42B456 2014 | Dewey Decimal 306.76620956925
Gender and sexual identity formation is an ongoing anthropological conversation in both Middle Eastern studies and urban studies, but the story of gay and lesbian identity in the Middle East is only just beginning to be told. Queer Beirut is the first ethnographic study of queer lives in the Arab Middle East. Drawing on anthropology, urban studies, gender studies, queer studies, and sociocultural theory, Sofian Merabet’s compelling ethnography suggests a critical theory of gender and religious identity formations that will disrupt conventional anthropological premises about the contingent role that society and particular urban spaces have in facilitating the emergence of various subcultures within the city.
From 1995 to 2014, Merabet made a series of ethnographic journeys to Lebanon, during which he interviewed numerous gay men in Beirut. Through their life stories, Merabet crafts moving ethnographic narratives and explores how Lebanese gays inhabit and perform their gender as they formulate their sense of identity. He also examines the notion of “queer space” in Beirut and the role that this city, its class and sectarian structure, its colonial history, and religion have played in these people’s discovery and exploration of their sexualities. In using Beirut as a microcosm for the complexities of homosexual relationships in contemporary Lebanon, Queer Beirut provides a critical standpoint from which to deepen our understandings of gender rights and citizenship in the structuring of social inequality within the larger context of the Middle East.
Once the cosmopolitan center of the Middle East, Beirut was devastated by the civil war that ran from 1975 to 1991, which dislocated many residents, disrupted normal municipal functions, and destroyed the vibrant downtown district. The aftermath of the war was an unstable situation Sawalha considers "a postwar state of emergency," even as the state strove to restore normalcy. This ethnography centers on various groups' responses to Beirut's large, privatized urban-renewal project that unfolded during this turbulent moment.
At the core of the study is the theme of remembering space. The official process of rebuilding the city as a node in the global economy collided with local day-to-day concerns, and all arguments invariably inspired narratives of what happened before and during the war. Sawalha explains how Beirutis invoked their past experiences of specific sites to vie for the power to shape those sites in the future. Rather than focus on a single site, the ethnography crosses multiple urban sites and social groups, to survey varied groups with interests in particular spaces. The book contextualizes these spatial conflicts within the discourses of the city's historical accounts and the much-debated concept of heritage, voiced in academic writing, politics, and journalism. In the afterword, Sawalha links these conflicts to the social and political crises of early twenty-first-century Beirut.
Toward Translingual Realities in Composition is a multiyear critical ethnographic study of first-year writing programs in Lebanon and Washington State—a country where English is not the sole language of instruction and a state in which English is entirely dominant—to examine the multiple and often contradictory natures, forces, and manifestations of language ideologies. The book is a practical, useful way of seriously engaging with alternative ways of thinking, doing, and learning academic English literacies.
Translingualism work has concentrated on critiquing monolingual and multilingual notions of language, but it is only beginning to examine translingual enactments in writing programs and classrooms. Focusing on language representations and practices at both the macro and micro levels, author Nancy Bou Ayash places the study and teaching of university-level writing in the context of the globalization and pluralization of English(es) and other languages. Individual chapters feature various studies that Bou Ayash brings together to address how students act as agents in marshaling their language practices and resources and shows a deliberate translingual intervention that complicates and enriches students’ assumptions about language and writing. Her findings about writing programs, instructors, and students are detailed, multidimensional, and complex.
A substantial contribution to growing translingual scholarship in the field of composition studies, Toward Translingual Realities in Composition offers insights into how writing teacher-scholars and writing program administrators can more productively intervene in local postmonolingual tensions and contradictions at the level of language representations and practices through actively and persistently reworking the design and enactment of their curricula, pedagogies, assessments, teacher training programs, and campus-wide partnerships.
In Visions of Beirut Hatim El-Hibri explores how the creation and circulation of images have shaped the urban spaces and cultural imaginaries of Beirut. Drawing on fieldwork and texts ranging from maps, urban plans, and aerial photographs to live television and drone-camera footage, El-Hibri traces how the technologies and media infrastructure that visualize the city are used to consolidate or destabilize regimes of power. Throughout the twentieth century, colonial, economic, and military mapping projects helped produce and govern Beirut's spaces. In the 1990s, the imagery of its post-civil war downtown reconstruction cast Beirut as a site of financial investment in ways that obscured its ongoing crises. During and following the 2006 Israel/Hizbullah war, Hizbullah's use of live television broadcasts of fighting and protests along with its construction of a war memorial museum at a former secret military bunker demonstrate the tension between visualizing space and the practices of concealment. Outlining how Beirut's urban space and public life intertwine with images and infrastructure, El-Hibri interrogates how media embody and exacerbate the region's political fault lines.
In 2003, Lebanese writer Rashid al-Daif spent several weeks in Germany as part of the “West-East Divan” program, a cultural exchange effort meant to improve mutual awareness of German and Middle Eastern cultures. He was paired with German author Joachim Helfer, who then returned the visit to al-Daif in Lebanon. Following their time together, al-Daif published in Arabic a literary reportage of his encounter with Helfer in which he focuses on the German writer’s homosexuality. His frank observations have been variously read as trenchant, naïve, or offensive. In response, Helfer provided an equally frank point-by-point riposte to al-Daif’s text. Together these writers offer a rare exploration of attitudes toward sex, love, and gender across cultural lines. By stretching the limits of both fiction and essay, they highlight the importance of literary sensitivity in understanding the Other.
Rashid al-Daif’s “novelized biography” and Joachim Helfer’s commentary appear for the first time in English translation in What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin. Also included in this volume are essays by specialists in Arabic and German literature that shed light on the discourse around sex between these two authors from different cultural contexts.