Locked In Time ?: The Hariri Assassination and the Making of a Usable Past for Lebanon

by Van Melle, Jonathan Herny

Abstract (Summary)
Why is it that on one hand Lebanon is represented as the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” a progressive and prosperous country, and its capital Beirut as the “Paris of the Middle East,” while on the other hand, Lebanon and Beirut are represented as sites of violence, danger, and state failure? Furthermore, why is it that the latter representation is currently the pervasive image of Lebanon? This thesis examines these competing images of Lebanon by focusing on Lebanon's past and the ways in which various “pasts” have been used to explain the realities confronting Lebanon. To understand the contexts that frame the two different representations of Lebanon I analyze several key periods and events in Lebanon's history that have contributed to these representations. I examine the ways in which the representation of Lebanon and Beirut as sites of violence have been shaped by the long period of civil war (1975-1990) whereas an alternate image of a cosmopolitan Lebanon emerges during the period of reconstruction and economic revival as well as relative peace between 1990 and 2005. In juxtaposing the civil war and the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in Beirut on February 14, 2005, I point to the resilience of Lebanon's civil war past in shaping both Lebanese and Western memories and understandings of the Lebanese state. I draw from and engage studies on the history of Lebanon by scholars and journalists from the United States and Lebanon, U.S. government documents on Lebanon, and American and Lebanese press coverage of Lebanon. The reactions of the American and Lebanese press and politicians, and the Lebanese people to the Hariri assassination, I argue, have resurrected and consolidated representations of Lebanon's civil war past as a usable past (both inside and outside Lebanon) that serves to explain the realities confronting Lebanon today and define it as a failed state.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:arafat yasser assad bashar hafez begin beirut bush george w chehab fouad christians civil war druzes eisenhower dwight franjieh sulayman gemayel bashir hariri rafic hezbollah israel jordan jumblatt kamal walid


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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