Public Research Seminar at Orient Institut Beirut: "Power of Remembrance – Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon"

In the framework of the forumZFD programme area Dealing with the Past, Dr. Mara Albrecht (University of Erfurt, Germany) and Dr. Bassel Akar (Notre Dame University-Louaize, Center for Applied Research and Education) presented the main findings of their research report "Power of Remembrance – Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon" on September 22, 2016 at the Orient Institut Beirut (OIB). After the presentation Nayla Khodr Hamadeh (founding member of the Lebanese Association for History - LAH) and Erik van Ommering (PhD Candidate, University of Amsterdam), discussed the report with the authors and the audience on the ground of their personal expertise in the field of history education.

In order to investigate the use of memory in the political as well as in the educational domains in Lebanon, the research team interviewed politicians of seven political parties regarding their cultures and approaches of remembrance, significance of memories of war and violence, and their approaches and influence on formal/non-formal education. The political parties interviewed during the research process are the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, Future Movement (FM), Lebanese Kataeb Party, Lebanese Forces (LF), Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).

The relevance of the research objective derives among others from the difficulties to agree on a single, national narrative of the civil war in Lebanon, which poses threat for further conflict and alienation of partisans from their political parties. Instead of focusing on the ideal of a unique narrative of historical events, the research team introduced disciplinary approach for learning about the past. By focusing on the critical review and examination of multiple but equally valid (hi)story interpretations, they suggest the use of a disciplinary approach to be a more realistic way dealing with historical events in the context of this politically and culturally diverse country.

Nayla Khord Hamadah, vice president of LAH, which is a group of educationalists, history teachers and activists who work together to contribute to the development of disciplinary approaches to history education in the Lebanese school system, understands the research to be a “confirmation of their work”. She especially highlighted the value of a disciplinary approach regarding the enhancement of dialogue, social responsibility, critical thinking and democratic values. In addition, Erik van Ommering expressed that there is “hope” in the study and furthermore emphasised that the research team engaged the political parties instead of simply talking about them, which he identifies as one of the biggest strength of the research and as valuable entry point for further engagement with the topic. The lively discussion with the audience that followed the presentation and comments of the discussants made especially evident how much an open debate about the topic is needed within the Lebanese civil society. However, there was some scepticism about how issues like the disappeared could be dealt with in the framework of a disciplinary approach.

The research report “Power of Remembrance – Political Parties, Memory and Learning about the Past in Lebanon" is available for download in English and Arabic.