Posts Tagged With: politics

The Right to Play Versus the Right to War? Vulnerable Childhood in Lebanon’s NGOization (February 2019)

My chapter with Chiara Diana (Université Libre de Bruxelles) is now published in Kristen Cheney and Aviva Sienrvo’s “Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Interventions”, Palgrave MacMillan, 2019. Look it up!

In the wake of the massive human displacement from Syria (2011–), some international NGOs (INGOs) have intervened in Lebanon to prevent Lebanese and Syrian youth from “radicalizing” and joining armed groups. In the framework of international humanitarian assistance within the “Global South,” while refugee adults are expected to become self-reliant, children and youth are often addressed as objects of universal concern and rarely as aware subjects of decision-making. Drawing on interviews conducted between Spring 2015 and Autumn 2016 with INGO workers and child players and their parents, we consider INGO play activities in contexts where political violence is widespread and longstanding, such as the Tripoli governorate in northern Lebanon. This chapter first aims to unpack the INGO discourse on children’s vulnerability. Second, we analyze INGO discourses and practices in a bid to critically examine the humanitarian and developmental attempts at providing politically neutral spaces for refugee and local children. We therefore build a threefold analysis focusing on the dehistoricization of political violence in the Arab Levant, the employment of the “Sport for Development” formula as a path to social cohesion, and the weak cultural literacy of INGOs in regard to contextual adult-child relations. Thereby, we argue that while INGOs tend to commodify the child as an a priori humanitarian victim, the international assistance community should rather strive to provide children with alternate avenues for political engagement in order to counter war recruitment.

Categories: Lebanon, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Need to Be There’: North-South Encounters and Imaginations in the Humanitarian Economy (December, 2018)

I have contributed to the Routledge Handbook of South-South Relations, edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Patricia Daley (2018), which has just been published!

The edited volume collects an important number of critical contributions which question contemporary political geographies of Global North and Global South. Here below you can read the abstract of my chapter which focuses on my work on humanitarianism in Lebanon.

chapter 22|13 pages

North–South encounters and imaginations in the humanitarian economy
ByEstella Carpi
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Based on ethnographic research conducted in Beirut’s southern suburbs (Dahiye) and northern Lebanon (Akkar) between 2011 and 2013, this chapter advances a critical reflection on humanitarian lifeworlds in Lebanon and their encounters with war-stricken local citizens and refugees. Defining Southism as a structural relationship that cements the ‘global South’ as the key symbolic capital of Northern empowerment, accountability and capability, the chapter discusses the attitudes and thinking that have characterised the Lebanese humanitarian economy during the Israel–Lebanon July 2006 war and the Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon from 2011. While it defines ‘epistemic failure’ and ‘material discrimination’ as the actual encounters between humanitarian providers and their beneficiaries, this chapter proposes that ‘humanitarian tourism’, ‘politics of blame’, and the ‘betrayal of the international community’ represent the local and refugee imaginary encounters with global humanitarian lifeworlds. With the purpose of problematising ethnic and political geographies in provider–recipient power relations, it finally theorises a de-geographicised notion of Southism that can better capture the complex role of international and local humanitarian workers in crisis settings, as well as the ad hoc relevance of nationality within humanitarian economies.


Categories: Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Nord Africa, United States | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Toward an Alternative ‘Time of the Revolution’? Beyond State Contestation in the struggle for a new Syrian Everyday (May, 2018)

The Mabisir team has just published “Toward an Alternative ‘Time of the Revolution’? Beyond State Contestation in the Struggle for a New Syrian Everyday” on Middle East Critique:

The convoluted relationship between the state and citizens in conflict-ridden Syria often has been reduced to a binary of dissent and consent. Challenging these simplistic categorizations, this article analyzes how state mechanisms resonate in the everyday lives of Syrians since the beginning of the crisis. Drawing on ethnographic insights from Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Syrian Kurds in northeastern Syria, this article shows how state, society and political opposition function as relational processes. Then, it identifies the limitations of contemporary strategies of everyday political contestation through the theory of Syrian intellectual ‘Omar ‘Aziz’s ‘time of the revolution.’

You can read the whole article on:

Categories: Kurdistan, Lebanon, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Faith-Based Solidarity and Social Membership: Beyond Religion? The Case of Lebanese Shiite FBOs (January 2018)

I have recently published a study on “Caucasus International”.

During the July 2006 postwar period in Beirut’s southern suburbs (Dahiye), which were destroyed by the Israeli air force in its effort to annihilate the Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah, the Islamic Shi‘a philanthropic sphere has been growing. It has pioneered the postwar reconstruction process and local relief provision, while diversely defining itself in relation to its secular and faith-based counterparts. This paper examines the extent to which religious providers develop solidarity with or antagonism towards provider members of the same community in times of crisis. Indeed, intracommunity solidarity among different aid providers tends to be taken for granted. Problematizing this common belief is particularly important for defining the ways in which social solidarity either develops or contracts across faith-based communities during conflict-induced displacement. In this context, aid provision and local accountability remain fundamental litmus papers. Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted in Dahiye from 2011 to 2013 with Lebanese Shiite faith-based organizations and private initiatives, a secular local organization, and their respective beneficiaries, this paper advances reflections on how social membership and acts of solidarity and charity interact within the Lebanese philanthropic scenario.

To read the whole article see:

Categories: Islam, Lebanon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review of four Arabic commentaries: what legitimacy of violence in the Syrian scenario?


Last week I had discussed Marcel M. Baumann’s piece to reflect on the (im)possibility of a mutual understanding of violence in future Syria.

After two years since the outset of the Syrian revolution, Jadaliyya has published a few days ago a series of articles written in Arabic by four Syrian authors on the concept and role of violence in the Syrian scenario.

I provide here a brief overview of the main ideas contained in each of the four commentaries: they differ from each other in an extremely interesting way, in spite of their shared strong opposition to Asad’s regime.

My personal stance can be positioned between Dima Wanus and Hassan ‘Abbas ways of thinking: even non-violence always demands confrontation in time of conflict. And confrontation is an obligatory stage in the mobilisation and uprising processes. Indeed, if initial non-violent confrontation, on one side, did not lead to any results but cruel repression, on the other, the current violent confrontation should have been “organized” and directed; in the sense of being conceived into a wider political project that needs to dismantle a given power, which, by its very nature, would never annihilate itself.ديمة-ونوس_العنف-ليس-الحل-ولكن

Dima Wanus, in “Violence is not the solution but”:

By drawing on Frantz Fanon’s “The wretched of the Earth”, where violence was used to combat colonialism, Wanus recalls the idea of a silent violence that the regime has been using for 40 years (‘onf samit) in Syria, and the way this power used to confiscate identity under the guise of “laicism” (musadarat al hauiyya tahta shi’ar al ‘almaniyya). Peaceful coexistence was not just an inherent characteristic of Syrians, as it is generally said: people were oppressed in fact by fear and submissiveness (khauf wa istislam).

Violence, therefore, turns to be a necessary tool to face long date oppression, after the regime has used it as a depreciation of the dignity of its citizens (imtihan la kiramat al muwatin al sury). Nonetheless, to her mind, violence is not the solution. Peaceful revolution was not a possible option in this scenario. A revolution in the Syrian context, which totally needs to disrupt the continuity with respect to the past to realise itself, cannot be judged according to standardised social, ethical and moral criteria.أسامة-سعيد_بيان-العنف

Osama Sa’id in “Declaration of violence”:

Violence is used against the development of citizenship by the regime. The author speaks of the generalised violence in the Syrian context in terms of collective punishment (‘oqab jama’iyy): it is used against the sons of the national army, who are, in turn, under the control of the dictatorship. They have never been asked their opinion. They are just used to defend what they do not represent. And all these “state employers” have nothing but their job.

It is violence itself that led Syrians to such an extreme situation. Death does not sow but destruction (lughat al qatl wa al tankil allaty tazra’u al maut lan tahsud siwa al damar).

Revolutionaries, therefore, cannot act in the name of rights by using violence. He provides the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq to prove that violence has never brought any good.

Changes do not lie in blind killing (al taghiyyr la yatim by’l qatl al a’ma). He identifies in violence just a vicious circle of revenge and hatred. This has turned into a dangerous belief that the destruction of Syria is believed to have a “holy price”. The only positive aspect in the diffused violence is a new awareness in Syrian society (wa’y jadid).

A state is supposed to monopolise violence to be the only legitimate actor that controls it and uses it. In Syria instead, violence itself became State in order to have a frame in which it can be used.

In this way, it is the opponents that are blamed to have breached the responsibility for guaranteeing security, rather than the state.

In light of this, it is the non-violence of the opponents that should have created the strategic difference between the two fighting parts.محمد-العطار_هل-هناك-طرق-لم-تسلك-في-سوريا؟

Mohammed al ‘Attar, in “Are there ways that have not been taken yet in Syria?”:

The use of violence should have been discarded in the Syrian conflict on the side of the revolutionaries, as that was exactly what the regime wanted to achieve in its divide-and-rule strategy: the destruction of the country if the regime’s stability would have wavered. The current armed resistance is compared to a trap set by the regime itself (mujarrad uquw’ fy fakh yada’uhu an-nizam al hakim).

The current massive repression, after all, was something expectable, as it is coherent with the regime’s logic.

Moreover, the use of violence triggers new difficulties for future Syria, such as a likely future campaign for post-conflict disarmament. Nonetheless, many citizens that have had no choice but taking up the weapons, would abandon them very willingly to get back to their normal life.

It is not possible to cut the regime’s head once for all: these violent strategies are generating just further blood and chaos. In his viewpoint, therefore, the reforms were possible by using pacific means.حسن-عباس_معنى-العنف-وحدوده-

Hassan ‘Abbas, in “The meaning of violence and its limits”:

In presence of authoritarian regimes, it is not conceivable to make real changes without resorting to violence. Nonetheless, ‘Abbas makes a neat distinction between chaotic violence and violence as an organized instrument serving a cause.

The regime in power, by its own nature, would not eliminate itself. Violence, in fact, is the essence of power (al ‘onf hua jawhar as-sulta), and inherent to political conflicts.

In other words, when used to dismantle injustice, the use of violence can be considered legitimate. It remains, however, a temporary instrument that must be part of a wider structured project, a political program that will offer directions about what is next.

Categories: Syria | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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