Study on Political Parties in Lebanon and Their Narratives about the Past (2015)

As a part of its programme on Dealing with the Past, forumZFD supported the compilation of a study entitled "The Power of Remembrance: Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon". The authors of the study are Dr. Mara Albrecht (University of Erfurt, Germany) and Dr. Basel Akar (Notre Dame University-Louaize, Center for Applied Research and Education, Lebanon). The study investigates how political parties in Lebanon use the memory of the Lebanese civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990 in the educational and political field. This is a topic about which little research has been conducted so far.

Concerning the political field the research focuses on the significance of collective political memory for political parties in Lebanon and how they make use of their own interpretations of the past for their political agendas. Concerning education, based on a theoretical framework on history education, the study focuses on educational principles and approaches applied by political parties to remember the past.

For the study, the authors interviewed politicians of seven important political parties in Lebanon, namely the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, Future Movement (FM), Lebanese Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces (LF), Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Syrian Social Nationalist Part (SSNP). They describe how the different parties use events such as anniversaries and commemoration sites in the public space to convey a certain narrative about the past. They conclude that the parties “use political memory as a specific form of collective memory for the formation of durable and unified collective identities".

Result of the study: not one narrative about the past, but many

Mara Albrecht and Basel Akar assume that it is unlikely that everyone in Lebanon will agree on a “single national narrative” of the recent past, given that perspectives vary so widely. The process of agreeing on a single national narrative could even lead to further conflict. However, the authors consider that embracing different, but equally valid narratives could be a realistic approach to deal with the past in Lebanon. The mutual acceptance of different historical narratives by all political groups could strengthen the pluralist character of the Lebanese society and would “emphasize values like tolerance and freedom of expression.”

"This study provides a basis for future dialogue among different political actors and the larger society about Lebanons recent past.“, explains Nina Strumpf, project manager for the Dealing with the Past programme at forumZFD. “We hope that the study will facilitate a much needed dialogue about different perspectives on the civil war. It is important that people in Lebanon mutually understand their views of the violent conflicts of the past to prevent similar events in the future.”

The study was presented during several public events, for example with representatives of the youth organisations of different political parties. The study is available for download in English and Arabic.

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