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Thinking Through Contradiction: Lebanon’s Thawra Against Sectarian Neoliberalism
Moving beyond the exceptionalism that is often deployed to study Lebanon, this research situates the Lebanon uprising of 2019 within a broader historical context of upheavals in the Arab region since 2010, and a more global dynamic of uprisings against neoliberal austerity and authoritarianism in the 21st century. It conceptualizes ‘sectarian neoliberalism’ as a broader form of right-wing populist political and economic system that is at the core of these revolutionary eruptions. This paper delves into Lebanon’s uprising of 2019 to reflect on the contradictory role of the neoliberal subject as both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary at once. It argues that revolutionary actors were very much shaped by a deeply ingrained neoliberal subjectivity that played an important role in facilitating counter-revolutionary developments. Through a study of how ordinary people created and experienced the biggest uprising in the contemporary history of the country; and how their experiences were shaped by deep structural transformations and predominant neoliberal subjectivities, this research focuses on their repertoire of actions, their subjectivities, and their political imaginaries to understand the contradictions that shape revolutionary moments in the 21st century. Building on a wealth of exclusive data gathered through archival methods, ethnography, a survey during the first week of the uprising, as well as in-depth interviews with protesters, this research project aims at understanding the revolutionary rupture of October 2019 in Lebanon through a focus on the contradictions of emancipatory politics from below.
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