Lebanon’s political opposition in search of identity: He who is without sect among you cast the first stone

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This paper grapples with the impact of the post-war consociational system in Lebanon on the articulation and organisation of political opposition, focusing on the period between 2011 and Lebanon’s October 2019 protests. It argues that the articulation and organisation of political opposition is limited by a deeply rooted sectarian episteme of politics as a result of decades of consociational politics and subsequently sectarian state–society relations. The paper shows how non-sectarian oppositional actors concede to the pervasiveness of sectarian identity by resorting to a very narrow or very broad articulation of demands, avoiding, in the process, confrontation with sectarian prejudice. The paper also shows how, conscious of the pervasiveness of sectarian identities, sectarian actors have continued to hold popular support and discredit narrow and broad demands by resorting to sectarian identities. Whilst there are many factors that help explain the weaknesses inflicting political opposition, this paper focuses on the question of identity, not as a mere analytical tool constructed by elites, but as a seemingly authentic articulation, which is initially generated through routine practices that, indeed, elites and the state play a defining part in structuring.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNationalism and Ethnic Politics
Early online date4 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2023

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