Sami Hermez: Political Mobilization Between Cynicism and Resistance in Lebanon

April 5, 2013 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Reimagining the State?

Political Mobilization Between Cynicism and Resistance in Lebanon


Sami Hermez - Visiting Professor, University Center for International Studies


Between 2006-2009 I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with political activists and former militia fighters in Lebanon, and became interested in, among other things, forms of political mobilization in everyday life.  In this paper, I explore the way cynicism seeps into political mobilization in Lebanon, specifically during the final days of the 2009 Lebanese Parliamentary elections.  I argue that political mobilization moves between modes of cynicism and resistance, calling on us to see these two postures as discursively related rather than mutually exclusive.  Cynical attitudes have been analyzed in the context of strong states like Turkey (Navaro-Yashin, 2002) and authoritarian ones such as Syria (Wedeen, 1999), but not in a place such as Lebanon where political action and democratic politics might be more vibrant, and where a strong state is absent.  Such a field site opens an investigation into institutionalized forms of political action and resistance, and their translations into everyday life.  How, I ask, do modes of resistance change as they are defined dialectically with the world around them?  And how might we see, through ethnographic accounts, the role of cynicism shaping public interactions and these modes of resistance?  Through these questions and concerns, this paper considers differences between a revolutionary struggle versus other forms of political mobilization, and has broader implications for understanding political reactions and mobilizations in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab revolutions.

Location and Address

3106 WWPH Anthropology Lounge