In light of the horrific explosion that took place on August 4th in Beirut, UC Press is providing a list of titles to help understand and contextualize the history of Lebanon and the ongoing struggles faced by this nation.
Generations of Women’s Activism in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon
by Nicola Pratt (available October 2020)
Based on over a hundred extensive personal narratives from women of different generations in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, Nicola Pratt traces women’s activism from national independence through to the Arab uprisings, arguing that activist women are critical geopolitical actors. Weaving together these personal accounts with the ongoing legacies of colonialism, Embodying Geopolitics demonstrates how the production and regulation of gender is integrally bound up with the exercise and organization of geopolitical power, with consequences for women’s activism and its effects.
by Samir Kassir
translated by M. B. DeBevoise
Widely praised as the definitive history of Beirut, this is the story of a city that has stood at the crossroads of Mediterranean civilization for more than four thousand years. The last major work completed by Samir Kassir before his tragic death in 2005, Beirut is a tour de force that takes the reader from the ancient to the modern world, offering a dazzling panorama of the city’s Seleucid, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and French incarnations. Kassir vividly describes Beirut’s spectacular growth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, concentrating on its emergence after the Second World War as a cosmopolitan capital until its near destruction during the devastating Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. Generously illustrated and eloquently written, Beirut illuminates contemporary issues of modernity and democracy while at the same time memorably recreating the atmosphere of one of the world’s most picturesque, dynamic, and resilient cities.
The Origins of the Lebanese National Idea
by Carol Hakim
In this fascinating study, Carol Hakim presents a new and original narrative on the origins of the Lebanese national idea. Hakim’s study reconsiders conventional accounts that locate the origins of Lebanese nationalism in a distant legendary past and then trace its evolution in a linear and gradual manner. She argues that while some of the ideas and historical myths at the core of Lebanese nationalism appeared by the mid-nineteenth century, a coherent popular nationalist ideology and movement emerged only with the establishment of the Lebanese state in 1920. Hakim reconstructs the complex process that led to the appearance of fluid national ideals among members of the clerical and secular Lebanese elite, and follows the fluctuations and variations of these ideals up until the establishment of a Lebanese state.
Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East
edited by Edmund Burke III and David Yaghoubian
Until the 1993 first edition of this book, one thing had been missing in Middle Eastern history—depiction of the lives of ordinary Middle Eastern men and women, peasants, villagers, pastoralists, and urbanites. Now updated and revised, the second edition has added six new portraits of individuals set in the contemporary period. It features twenty-four brief biographies drawn from throughout the Middle East—from Morocco to Afghanistan—in which the reader is provided with vantage points from which to understand modern Middle Eastern history “from the bottom up.”
Emigration, Gender, and the Middle Class in Lebanon, 1870-1920
by Akram Fouad Khater
Between 1890 and 1920 over one-third of the peasants of Mount Lebanon left their villages and traveled to the Americas. This book traces the journeys of these villagers from the ranks of the peasantry into a middle class of their own making.
Inventing Home delves into the stories of these travels, shedding much needed light on the impact of emigration and immigration in the development of modernity. It focuses on a critical period in the social history of Lebanon–the “long peace” between the uprising of 1860 and the beginning of the French mandate in 1920. The book explores in depth the phenomena of return emigration, the questioning and changing of gender roles, and the rise of the middle class. Exploring new areas in the history of Lebanon, Inventing Home asks how new notions of gender, family, and class were articulated and how a local “modernity” was invented in the process.
The Long Peace
Ottoman Lebanon, 1861-1920
by Engin Akarli
Long notorious as one of the most turbulent areas of the world, Lebanon nevertheless experienced an interlude of peace between its civil war of 1860 and the beginning of the French Mandate in 1920. Engin Akarli examines the sociopolitical changes resulting from the negotiations and shifting alliances characteristic of these crucial years.
Using previously unexamined documents in Ottoman archives, Akarli challenges the prevailing view that attributes modernization in government to Western initiative while blaming stagnation on reactionary local forces. Instead, he argues, indigenous Lebanese experience in self-rule as well as reconciliation among different religious groups after 1860 laid the foundation for secular democracy. European intervention in Lebanese politics, however, hampered efforts to develop a correspondingly secular notion of Lebanese nationality.
A House of Many Mansions
The History of Lebanon Reconsidered
by Kamal Salibi
Today Lebanon is one of the world’s most divided countries. But paradoxically the faction-ridden Lebanese, both Christians and Muslims, have never shown a keener consciousness of common identity. How can this be? In the light of modern scholarship, a famous Lebanese writer and scholar examines the historical myths on which his country’s warring communities have based their conflicting visions of the Lebanese nation. He shows that Lebanon cannot afford this divisiveness, that in order to develop and maintain a sense of political unity, it is necesary to distinuish fact from fiction and then build on what is real in the common experience of both groups.
Salibi offers a major reinterpretation of Lebanese history and provides remarkable insights into the dynamic of Lebanon’s recent conflict. In so doing, he illuminates important facets of his country’s present and future. This book also gives a masterly account of how the imagined communities that underlie modern nationalism are created and will be of interest to students of international affairs as well as Near Eastern scholars.
The Culture of Sectarianism
Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon
by Ussama Makdisi
Focusing on Ottoman Lebanon, Ussama Makdisi shows how sectarianism was a manifestation of modernity that transcended the physical boundaries of a particular country. His study challenges those who have viewed sectarian violence as an Islamic response to westernization or simply as a product of social and economic inequities among religious groups. The religious violence of the nineteenth century, which culminated in sectarian mobilizations and massacres in 1860, was a complex, multilayered, subaltern expression of modernization, he says, not a primordial reaction to it.
Makdisi argues that sectarianism represented a deliberate mobilization of religious identities for political and social purposes. The Ottoman reform movement launched in 1839 and the growing European presence in the Middle East contributed to the disintegration of the traditional Lebanese social order based on a hierarchy that bridged religious differences. Makdisi highlights how European colonialism and Orientalism, with their emphasis on Christian salvation and Islamic despotism, and Ottoman and local nationalisms each created and used narratives of sectarianism as foils to their own visions of modernity and to their own projects of colonial, imperial, and national development. Makdisi’s book is important to our understanding of Lebanese society today, but it also makes a significant contribution to the discussion of the importance of religious discourse in the formation and dissolution of social and national identities in the modern world.