Sites of ReMemory:
Situating Cultural Production and Civil Violence in Lebanon
Dr. habil Saadi Nikro
Since the formal ending of the civil war, or the various wars and events of civil strife between 1975 and 1990, the Lebanese state has opted for a policy of dismemory – the strategic management of forgetting. Consequently the State has not been able to establish a collectivising political culture of care and nurture that could go some way towards addressing the traumas and conflicts different groups directly and symptomatically carry, and discursively employ as modes of self- and other-understanding. Still in the country’s schools, textbooks used for history instruction address events only up to the early 1970s, so as to avoid mentioning the civil war. Needless to say, Lebanon’s post-war political system has not been able or willing to inaugurate a memorial or day of commemoration.
Considering the deft ability of Lebanon’s political elite, despite differences and antagonisms, to maintain historical amnesia, formalised through the state’s granting of amnesties in 1991 to militia leaders and participants, cultural production has come to play an important role in engaging history as what can be called the actualisation of memory, staging constructive exchanges between the personal and public. During and since the war there has emerged a prodigious amount of cultural work in Lebanon. This is evident in fictional and autobiographical prose, feature and documentary film and video, photography, installation and sculpture, and to a lesser extent theatre and performance. A recent spate of fiction and film situating the civil war suggests a lingering, simmering wound.
This cultural work keeps past events and experiences within view, and can be approached as sites for the engagement of memory. Hence this project aims to study how contemporary cultural production in Lebanon critically and creatively situates the country’s recent history, drawing its variable experience into the sphere of public awareness and review.
This project is part of: