One of the most common expressions of popular rhetoric in Lebanon is the question, “Wayn al-dawleh?” Where is the state? The idea that the Lebanese state does not exist imbues the daily perceptions and attitudes of Lebanese of all backgrounds in the wake of failing public services, institutional deadlock, civil strife, and political stalemate. Even incumbent politicians have blamed the state’s “nonexistence” on the inability to provide goods and services, along with opponents’ efforts to create “states within a state.” At the same time, politicians advance state-building schemes based on resistance, security, or economic competitiveness.
Scholarship usually portrays the Lebanese state as weak, failed, penetrated, and dysfunctional; one more often than not that is overwhelmed by an inherent sectarianism, and a beleaguered and inauspicious geopolitical position. Accordingly, the absence of the Lebanese state, or its weakness, is not only taken for granted, but it has also become a cornerstone variable in studying the Lebanese polity. Alternatively, social scientists use catch phrases such as "vibrant civil society", "free press", and "laissez-faire economy" to contrast “Lebanese liberalism”, which has been achieved in the context of an allegedly absent state, with the stifling authoritarianism of the region's pre-Arab spring regimes. How does one square such seemingly contrary natures? Moreover, the Arab uprisings since 2011 have seemed to undermine this juxtaposition, making Lebanon appear as one of the most conservative states in the region that is immune to the wave of popular mobilizations.
The Arab Studies Journal seeks submissions for a special issue whose premise is the viability of the Lebanese state. How can we conceptualize it? Who or what is the state? Who practices it? How is it encountered in everyday life? How does this so-called "absent" state regulate gender and sectarian identities, security, allocation of symbolic goods, economy, and modes of capitalist accumulation? How does the state – in its presence and/or absence – organize social order, and the hierarchies whether sectarian or otherwise, inscribed within it? How does it face external challenges? We particularly encourage contributions that explicitly engage with theories of the state. The call is open to a wide range of methodological approaches, including ethnography, case study comparison, historical research, and discourse analysis. It is open to all disciplines including political scientists, historians, anthropologists, and economists.
Articles should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 March 2015. Please follow the Journal’s submission guidelines. If you would like to discuss your article before submission, please contact the theme guest editors, Jamil Mouawad (email@example.com) and Hannes Baumann (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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