I was born and raised in the 1970s-1980s war in Lebanon. My experience as a war survivor has marked my writing and art, as has fueld my quest for peace. As I see it, peace is not only about ceasefires, the end of bloodshed, the absence of hostilities, and a state of mutual concord between governments, as war is both “physical” and “psychological”. Peace is about accountability for violence, openness, generosity, clemency, and catharsis. Peace is and should be a transformation process within mindsets, a celebration of interconnected life and unity in the diversity of complex identities. As long as the legacy of violence is not addressed within ourselves and our societies, we will remain lost, cut off from connection, living in a never-ending apocalypse of carnages and tortured souls and bodies.
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co
Amazing day with the inhabitants of Qalamoun, shooting videos, interviewing “Qalamoun in colors” project’s beneficiaries, tasting authentic bread and lemonade, and enjoying the hospitality of the mayor and the locals. “Qalamoun in colors” is a Cash for work employment project that focuses on the rehabilitation and beautification of the Qalamoun market and public spaces. It creates ownership as youth and the community are actively involved in the design and execution of the project, generates short-term income opportunities, and aims to strengthen community cooperation. Implemented by GIZ Local Development Programme for Urban Areas in North Lebanon in partnership with Utopia Lebanon and the Municipality of Qalamoun through financial support of the European Union and Germany. #eastlinedigital
Indelible is a new literary journal edited by my friends at the American University in Dubai. A special thank you to Dr. Roula Maria Dib for publishing a photo of one of my paintings and a short prose poem.
“Doors are the keepers of secrets, memories of the past and dreams about bright futures. Doors’ closures give the feeling of fences that speak. Behind doors, there are people who live, love each other, argue, are sad or happy; there are furniture and objects, sounds of voices, smells of soup … Doors are boundaries, presence, absence, call, communication, access, defense, rupture, transition, intimate, and universal. Doors are protective shelters, guardians of passages between the profane and the sacred. Doors are chances to do something different, they are places of departure and entrances into new worlds.
Doors are ecumenical images of life’s immanence.”
Dr. Pamela Chrabieh is a scholar, writer, visual artist, and activist. Author of several books and papers with a 20+ year experience in higher education, communication, content creation, and the arts, she has exhibited her artworks in Canada, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Previously Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai, she currently owns and manages a Beirut-based company offering expertise in Learning and Communication. http://pamelachrabiehblog.com and http://spnc.co
Nikro, Norman Saadi; Hegasy, Sonja (Eds.). Palgrave, 2017
By Tsjalling Wierdsma, Master Student on Heritage and Memory Studies, University of Amsterdam. Fellow at EUROM (2018).
The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco, edited by Norman Saadi Nikro and Sonja Hegasy, is part of the larger Palgrave Studies in Cultural Heritage and Conflict Series, which focuses on themes such as heritage and memory of war and conflict, contested heritage, and competing memories. Contributors to the book include Joey Ayoub, Pamela Chrabieh, Brahim El Guabli, Ali Hamdan, Norah Karrouche, and Laura Menin. While the book focuses on the specific contexts of Lebanon and Morocco, in this short review I would like to reflect on some broader memory and heritage issues addressed in the book, while still keeping the particular contexts to which they refer and in which they were addressed in mind.
One of the main thematic parameters of the book concerns the interaction between, and “transformation of private memories into publicly shared memories, according to efforts claiming public acknowledgment and public redress” (2-3). Memory, in the process of this exchange, according to the authors of the book, “is acted on as a transformational site, a milieu, whereby social and political engagement takes place, situating memory as a public event” (3).
The book points to an interaction and tension between Nora’s famous concept of memory as lieu, as a memorial or other form of formal commemoration, and memory as the milieu. By addressing memory as milieu the book enables a focus on overlooked processes of memory that otherwise might not be classified as such. An example of this is given in Laura Menin’s chapter, in which she focuses on the process of waiting experienced by the families of victims of political violence that disappeared during the Years of Lead. Instead of viewing waiting as a purely passive process, she instead views it as a “multifaceted temporality that entails both passivity and proactive engagement” (27). Menin describes how waiting in this context is perceived as an additional state-imposed source of pain, trauma, and loss of agency, but simultaneously brings with it novel political subjectivities and specific modes of activism where personal memories of violence are re-socialized, made public, and act towards specific political and transformative goals (27).
Chapters such as Ali Nehme Hamdan’s, which focuses on the Hariri mosque in Martyrs Square Beirut as a site of memory, highlight the usefulness of the concept milieu for engaging with the everyday “messy stuff of contention” (146). It further allows for a focus on the simultaneously conflicting and collective cultures of memory, without “assuming the centrality of the nation-state to their production” (146), which is necessary in a context such as Lebanon, but also more generally enables a focus that highlights the multiple actors and the ways in which they engage, negotiate, and create sites and spaces of memory. It allows for an engagement with the “many cultures of memory that coexist at any one time” (147), and not just at the level of the nation-state.
Pamela Chrabieh’s chapter, focusing on the war stories of university students in Lebanon belonging to the 1990’s generation, adds a generational component to these cultures of memory, and problematizes Hirsch’s notion of post-memory, stating that “many memories that were transmitted not only constitute the memories or are part of the ressouvenir processes of the new generations in their own right, but also intermingle with other memories to the point of not having clear boundaries” (189).
Chrabieh employs Rothberg’s concept of multidirectionalmemory, to enable a generational conception of a malleable discursive space in which groups, their memories, and their positions come into being through dialogical interaction. Similarly, Norah Karrouche’s chapter, detailing how local memories of war and violence in the Northern Riff region of Morocco have shaped the agencies and identities of several generations of Berber activists in both Morocco and its diaspora, shows how newer generations of activists can attempt to inscribe themselves into and simultaneously construct larger mythological and symbolic histories of activism. Like Chrabieh, Karrouche shows how multiple episodes of violence interact. Karrouche further discusses how these histories of activism can act as mythomoteurs, grand narratives about the specificity of a place in history and (trans)-national narratives (232-233). In combination, the two chapters however also highlight the large contextual differences in the generational transmission of memories.
The interaction and the contradictions between the different chapters is one of the book’s largest strengths. Instead of taking away from the individual arguments, these contradictions work to show the many nuances and contradictions attached to institutions, spaces, and milieus of memory, when approached from different levels of analysis and with different focus points.
Mon article paru ce matin dans l’Orient-le-Jour (Beyrouth – Liban) sur la nécessité de déconstruire la culture de la guerre et d’édifier une culture de la paix. C’est le énième article que je publie sur ce sujet depuis les années 90. La guerre est continue au Liban. Elle n’est pas que physique, elle est surtout psychologique et culturelle.
Voilà des années que le Liban vit au rythme de guerres de paroles, de mémoires meurtries, d’identités meurtrières, d’autoritarisme et de crises sociopolitique, économique et environnementale.
Dans cette saga libanaise aux allures de choc de titans, les héros ont bel et bien disparu, laissant la place aux fanatiques, démagogues, corrompus, méduses, sorcières du Styx, montagnes de détritus, scorpions monstrueux, sacrifices humains et maléfices de Hadès.
Près de trois décennies après la fin des combats, il est triste de constater que le pays n’est pas en mode « postguerre ». En fait, la guerre est continue, et les leçons qui auraient dû être tirées n’ont pas pu l’être, justement parce qu’une véritable construction de la paix n’a pas eu lieu, et ce en dépit des initiatives de certains groupes et individus œuvrant pour la convivialité et un système sociopolitique aconfessionnel assurant l’unité dans la diversité des voix(es) libanaises. Une chose est de faire taire les canons, de faire disparaître les frontières territoriales et de constamment faire miroiter bonheur et prospérité ; une autre est de renouer le contact entre les communautés et d’établir des liens solides au-delà des dissensions et des clivages.
Comment penser et vivre une catharsis salutaire lorsque le Kraken de la culture de la guerre constitue la toile de fond du Liban contemporain? Cette culture s’impose comme réalité du quotidien physique et virtuel. Avec son cortège de djinns et de démons, elle enflamme les esprits, sème la zizanie et ravage les vies. Elle est à la fois le produit et le producteur de choc de titans, un cercle vicieux formé d’oppresseurs et d’opprimés, d’accapareurs de pouvoir, de démunis et de boucs émissaires.
Chaque instant qui passe sous l’emprise de la culture de la guerre creuse davantage le fossé entre Libanais, sanctifie l’assassinat du semblable et du différent, transforme le meurtre en devoir, banalise les suicides individuel et collectif, et interdit toute réflexion critique, toute évolution et toute richesse émanant de la diversité.
Tant que la culture de la guerre sévit dans les cœurs, les criminels continueront de perpétrer leurs crimes et les victimes de mourir par omission. Tant que cette culture existe, l’étripage des dieux se poursuivra. Tant que l’hégémonie culturelle est celle de la guerre et non de la paix, on ne pourra garder l’espoir face aux bouchons inextricables du passé et à la léthargie étouffante du présent, révéler les non-dits, muer la douleur en souvenir fondateur et retenir la principale leçon de la guerre, de toute guerre : qu’elle ne se reproduise plus.