Two peoples sharing one destiny? The creation of difference among Lebanese and Syrian border residents
Michelle Obeid (University of Manchester)
Paper short abstract:
The paper asks why and how do conceptions of difference emerge among friendly neighbours. Focusing on the Lebanese/Syrian border, the paper analyses how Lebanese residents have come to define Syrians as ‘culturally different’ in relation to recent political shifts in the region.
Paper long abstract:
The paper asks why and how do conceptions of difference emerge among friendly neighbours. The long-standing slogan 'two peoples sharing one destiny' referring to the connectedness of the Lebanese and the Syrian peoples, and coined by previous Syrian President Hafez Al-Asad, ironically rings true today. While the slogan was deployed to justify Syrian intervention in Lebanon, this rhetorical imposition was met with cynicism by a variety of political groups opposing Syrian politics in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991). The paper focuses on the northeast of Lebanon where relations between residents across both sides of the border has had a different character than the remaining parts of Lebanon due to the porous nature of the border and the socio-economic relations and ties developed historically. While until recently everyday Lebanese sociality at the border has incorporated Syrian residents. But the displacement of masses of Syrian persons to the Lebanese side as a result of the civil unrest has altered these relationships. The paper analyses how the Lebanese residents have come to define the Syrians as 'culturally different' and argues that the recent conceptions of 'difference' can only be understood in their interconnectedness to transnational and global processes that include politics between the two states, the relationship of the border to the Syrian regime, the national tensions and polarisations within the Lebanese state and the international handling of refugee movements.
Difference in an interconnected world