Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Jessica Martin

Second Advisor

Beverly Weber

Third Advisor

Victoria Hunter

Abstract

Modern Lebanon’s political sectarian system is the result of many years of external forces molding the territory and its sociopolitical structures to align with international interests. Civic spaces in Lebanon, and women’s activity within these spaces, is dictated by sectarian dynamics within its politics and society. This paper explores the evolution of the Lebanese state and sectarianized experiences of citizenship in relation to the external forces that shaped the “Lebanese System” in place today.

Beginning in the late Ottoman and French Mandate periods, it identifies the key players in state formation both under colonial rule and later, as a sovereign state, a failing state in civil war, a post-conflict society. Finally, it frames Lebanon as a case study in 21st-century Middle East politics. It argues that the sectarian sociopolitical structure and gendered social and legal understandings of citizenship preclude any unified experience of public life across the Lebanese system, and thus prevents women from engaging fully in both Lebanese civic life and of their position as citizens in the global system.

It is crucial to understand the ways in which gendered, sectarian civic spaces have formed and continue to evolve as it is within these spaces where civil societies develop. This study identifies points of entry to civic life for women within the major Lebanese sects, as well as barriers to complete participation. It supports the consideration of gendered modes of civic participation within the larger framework of transnational politics, particularly in relation to Lebanon’s continued strategic importance to regional and international actors.