The Social Life of Memory: Violence, Trauma, and Testimony in Lebanon and Morocco

Saturday, 2nd March 2019 Magazine of the European Observatory on MemoriesISSN 2565-2931 | DL B 27726-2017

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).

Hariri Memorial | Picture: upyernoz, uploaded by Albert Herring [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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 multidirectional memory, 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.


CAFCAW Meeting in Jordan: Working for the Renewal of Religious Thought in the Arab World

It’s a wrap! #CAFCAW meeting @Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa, Jordan, January 2019 
لتجديد الفكر والخطاب الديني في العالم العربي وتعزيز الوجود الفعال المسيحي والعمل من أجل مواطنة الوحدة في التنوع وكرامة الإنسان

Dr. Atef Gendy, Dr. Victor Makari, Maya Khadra, Dr. Mitri Raheb, Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Mary Mikhael

Théologies de la réconciliation


Volume 23, numéro 2, 2015 (publié en décembre 2017; disponible en ligne dès janvier 2018):

Théologies de la réconciliation
Sous la direction de Denise Couture et Jean-François Roussel

Direction de la revue: Alain Gignac (Directeur)
Éditeur: Faculté de théologie et de sciences des religions, Université de Montréal (QC – Canada)
ISSN1188-7109 (imprimé)1492-1413 (numérique)


Théologies chrétiennes de la réconciliation à l’heure de la Commission vérité et réconciliation du Canada
Denise Couture et Jean-François Roussel p. 7–30

La Commission de vérité et réconciliation du Canada sur les pensionnats autochtones : Bilan et prospective
Jean-François Roussel p. 31–58

Les Églises, la théologie et les Autochtones : De la réconciliation à la décolonisation
Michel Andraos p. 59–73

Le salut comme réconciliation
Jean Richard p. 75–101

La réconciliation chez Paul (2 Co 5,11–6,2 ; Rm 5,1-11) : Perspective discursive et socio-politique
Alain Gignac p. 103–131

La mission de l’Église : Réconciliation de l’humanité désunie
Gregory Baum p. 133–148

Pour des réconciliations ecclésiales, religieuses et personnelles : Les communautés locales de Poitiers et la confiance
Rémi Lepage p. 149–164

La réconciliation comme mission : De l’usage théologique de la notion de réconciliation par le décret sur la mission de la 35e Congrégation générale de la Compagnie de Jésus
André Brouillette S.J. p. 165–183

Les alliances interethniques en Afrique de l’Ouest : Nouvelles stratégies de réconciliation
Zaoro Hyacinthe Loua S.J. p. 185–201

Rôle de la femme dans la société et dans l’Église : Pour une justice et une réconciliation durables en Afrique
Albertine Tshibilondi Ngoyi p. 203–228

Pratiques de réconciliation au Liban : Un état des lieux
Pamela Chrabieh p. 229–252 

Entre le devoir de pardonner et le droit de ne pas pardonner
Karlijn Demasure et Jean-Guy Nadeau


Bien que les pratiques de réconciliation connaissent une longue histoire au Liban, celles-ci se diversifient à partir des années 1990. Elles constituent un important objet d’étude pour de nombreux académiciens et académiciennes ainsi que chercheurs et chercheuses ; elles sont devenues la cause commune d’une pléthore d’organismes non-gouvernementaux, d’associations civiles, de mouvements sociaux et d’artistes. Le thème de la réconciliation des Libanais et Libanaises sert aussi de cadre pour le discours politique. Cet article présente un état des lieux de ces pratiques en traitant premièrement de la relation de la réconciliation au dialogue interreligieux puis de la relation de la réconciliation à la mémoire nationale. Il présente par la suite certains exemples au sein de la société civile et identifie en conclusion quelques pistes de réflexion.

Although reconciliation practices have a long history in Lebanon, they have been diversifying since the 1990s. Furthermore, they have become an important object of study for many scholars and researchers, and the common cause for numerous non-governmental organizations, civic associations, social movements and artists. The theme of reconciliation also serves as a framework for political discourse. This article presents first an overview of these practices by tackling the relationship between reconciliation, interreligious dialogue and national memory. It then highlights some examples found in the Lebanese civil society. It finally suggests some avenues to be explored.

من الحرب إلى التربية على السلام

With my students – Interreligious field trip at Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

الدكتورة باميلا شرابيه

ولدتُ ونشأتُ وقتَ الحرب في لبنان، وقد ساهمت هذه التجربة في تكوين هويّتي، كما هي الحال مع معظم المواطنين اللبنانيّين. ولولا حبّ أهلي وانفتاحهم على الآخر، وخبراتي ودراساتي في الحوار الدينيّ والثقافيّ والإنسانيّ، لكنت من عداد الذين يعيشون في غيتوهات الهويّات المتصارعة – كما وصفها الروائيّ أمين معلوف[1] -، ويؤمنون في الصفحة البيضاء ومنافع فقدان الذاكرة الفرديّة والجماعيّة. قد تعلّمت بناء السلام من خلال فعل السلام وهذا الفعل في الأوساط الرسميّة وغير الرسميّة دفعني إلى إنتاج معرفة عن السلام ومنهج تعليميّ في السياق الجامعيّ.

وفقًا لإيان م. هاريس، تشير التربية على السلام “إلى المعلّمين الذين يدرسون السلام: ما هو عليه، لماذا لا وجود له، وكيفيّة تحقيقه. ويشمل ذلك تدريس تحدّيات تحقيق السلام، وتطوير المهارات  اللاعنفيّة، وتعزيز المواقف السلميّة. إنّ للتربية على السلام أربعة مبادئ رئيسيّة: 1) أنّها تفسّر جذور العنف؛ 2) تعلّم بدائل للعنف؛ 3) السلام نفسه هو عمليّة تختلف وفقًا للسياق. 4) الصراع في كلّ مكان”[2]. في مقال آخر، يشرح هاريس وجهة نظره من خلال القول بأنّ التربية على السلام “تستمدّ من فطرة الإنسان للعيش بسلام مع الآخرين، وتؤكّد القيم السلميّة التي يجب أن يقوم عليها المجتمع، وتمكّن المعلّمين من استخدام مهاراتهم المهنيّة لتعليم طلّابهم على السلام”[3].

وقد أعرّف التربية على السلام بالآتي: تتكوّن هذه التربية من مقاربات تربويّة ضمن منهاج يعتمد في المدارس والجامعات ومبادرات من قبل أفراد وجماعات غير معنيّين في النظام التعليم الرسميّ الخاصّ والعامّ. وتهدف هذه التربية إلى صقل معرفة ثقافة السلام وممارساتها. لا يستطيع المدرّسون فعل الكثير في الصفّ لأجل تخفيف أسباب الحرب الاقتصاديّة والسياسيّة، ولكن يمكنهم أن يساهموا في ضبط العوامل النفسيّة التي تدعم العنف، وفي تفكيك الأحكام المسبقة، وفي تفعيل الحوار وتعزيز الاحترام المتبادل وبناء الجسور بين الفوارق. تولد الحروبُ في العقل البشريّ ومن هنا أهميّة التربية على السلام التي تؤدّي دوراً في تغيير العقليّة، كما جاء في الميثاق التأسيسيّ لليونسكو:”لمّا كانت الحروب تتولّد في عقول البشر، ففي عقولهم يجب أن تُبنى حصون السلام”.[4]

إنّ التربية على السلام في لبنان مدعومة من قبل منظّمات غير حكوميّة، كما من قبل بعضهم في القطاع الفنيّ والثقافيّ، ولبنانيّين في المهجر. وثمّة بعض المبادرات في المدارس مثل نشاطات فنيّة ومخيّمات صيفيّة. وتعتبر التربية على السلام ظاهرة نادرة في الإطار الجامعيّ. هناك استثناءات بحيث يتمّ ربط التربية على السلام بالحوار بين الأديان كما في جامعة القدّيس يوسف. ويتّفق جميع الأفرقاء على ضرورة تعميم ثقافة السلام، خاصّةً في وضع يغيب عنه أيّ مشروع وطنيّ لبناء ذاكرة حرب مشتركة ونشر كتاب تاريخ لبنان موحّد يعتمد في المدارس وكسر حلقة الحرب وبناء سلام مستدام.

وقد بيّنت نتائج أبحاثي في الأوساط الجامعيّة والمدرسيّة في لبنان (٢٠٠٤-٢٠١٤) أنّ الأجيال الصاعدة تحتاج إلى اهتمام خاصّ بصفتها الأجيال التي ترث تجربة العنف وتحوّلها إلى معرفة تاريخيّة مطلقة – وهنا يكمن خطر توظيف التاريخ، هذا الأمر الذي حذر منه المؤرّخ بينجامين ستورا في كتابه عن الاستعمار الفرنسيّ في الجزائر. ففي نظر ستورا، تستعمل أفكار من الماضي من دون إعادة النظر فيها ويتحكّم سياسيّون فيها ويبقون مخيال المجتمع مُرتبطًا بها، ويحافظون إذاً على نمط واحد من هذا المخيال[5]. من هنا يمكن الماضي أن يجمد وسلسلة الانتقام أن تخلّد ضمن أسطورة راسخة. إنّ التربية على السلام تساعد على أن يستوعب الماضي في تعقّده التاريخيّ وعلى توسيع فسحات العيش المشترك وإكثارها.

قد كوّنتُ منهجًا تربويًّا يُعنى بالسلام في كندا ولبنان والإمارات. وقد فعّلت نظريّة بناء السلام من خلال نشاطات مختلفة مثل ورش عمل لحلّ النزاعات، ورحلات ميدانيّة ومشاريع إعلاميّة رقميّة وأعمال فنيّة عن الحرب والسلام ولقاءات حواريّة إلخ. – نشاطات تساهم في عمليّة اختبار الغير المألوف والاحترام المتبادل وإدارة التنوّع[6]. وقد عبّر الكثير من الطلّاب عن اكتسابهم معرفة بديلة في جوّ مؤاتٍ للحوار، ساعدهم على تطوير فكرهم النقديّ واكتساب مهارات الحوار مثل الاستماع النشط وشجّعهم على التعاون. وأكّد طلّاب في لبنان أهميّةَ قبول الآخر والعمل بوجهٍ متضافر للوصول إلى وجهات نظر متقاربة، وقد أصبح أكثر من ١٥٪ من هؤلاء نشطاء من أجل السلام.

من الطبيعيّ أن تتطوّر هذه التربية مع الخبرات المتراكمة وتتنوّع تطبيقاتها بحسب السياق. فالتربية على السلام في كندا تختلف عن التربية في لبنان وأيضاً عن التربية في الإمارات. في الحقيقة، هناك بعض التحدّيات والصعوبات المشتركة لدى المهتمّين بهذا المجال. من هذه التحدّيات: أوّلاً الربط بين المحلّية والعالميّة في تكوين هويّات الطلّاب، وثانياً، أخذ مبادرات وروايات الطلّاب الفرديّة بعين الاعتبار. أمّا عن الصعوبات فتكمن في عدّة قضايا أساسيّة، منها: العقبات السياسيّة والاقتصاديّة؛ والاعتقاد السائد في المجتمع اللبنانيّ أنّ الحرب وسيلة مشروعة من أجل تحقيق مصلحة الوطن والجماعات والأحزاب وحمايتها؛ ومعرفة قليلة بالخيارات والبدائل المتعدّدة لحالة العنف؛  واعتبار السلام حالة مثاليّة، غير واقعيّة؛ والتربية على السلام شأنًا معزولًا وليس خيرًا عامًّا.

* أستاذة علوم الشرق الأوسط في الجامعة الأميركية في دبي؛ باحثة، كاتبة، فنّانة وناشطة اجتماعيّة.

[1] Amin Maalouf, Les identités meurtrières, Grasset, 1998.

[2] Ian M. Harris, “Peace Education Theory”, Journal of Peace Education, Volume 1, Number 1, 2004, p. 6

[3] Ian M. Harris, “Peace Education: Definition, Approaches and Future Directions”, in Peace Studies, Public Policy and Global Security, Volume II, edited by Ursula Oswald Spring, Ada Aharoni, Ralph V. Summy and Robert Charles Elliot, EOLSS Publications, 2010, p. 283.

[4] (in Arabic).

[5] Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History, Cornell University Press, 2004.

[6] For more information about my Peace Education approach and activities:


Policy, Global Citizens and World Peace. Case studies: Lebanon, Canada and the UAE

Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh was invited as a special guest speaker to give a lecture entitled “Policy, Global Citizens and World Peace: How can Governments influence policy to create better Global citizens and work towards World Peace? Case studies: Lebanon, Canada and the United Arab Emirates”.

Dr. Chrabieh introduced first her audience to the concepts of policy, glocal citizen instead of global citizen and the peace process as she defined it based on four interdependent dynamics: peacekeeping, peacemaking, peacebuilding and inner peace. She then identified the major core values that drive or should drive Lebanese and Canadian foreign policies such as interreligious dialogue, democracy, human rights and interculturalism. She also tackled the issue of internal policy while focusing on the social-political diversity management systems in Lebanon, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Chrabieh concluded with the UAE Ministry of Tolerance as an important example of how peace can be adopted as the organizing frame for governments’ policies.

“Tolerance is one of the major pillars in preserving and expanding peace. Definitely, citizens and expatriates are called to be agents of peace, peace builders, and to help the government in its task, first internally, and second, in exporting the model outside of the Emirati boundaries. Dubai in particular, where hundreds of ethnicities, religious and cultural identities are learning to coexist and more, to live with one another – just like we are trying to do at the American University in Dubai -, where glocal identities are reshaping their belongings and relationships, promises to offer this model to the region, and to the world.”

The Harvard College in Asia Program (HCAP) is an initiative in which Harvard University partners with higher education institutions in Asia to tackle key issues relevant to today’s world of increasing challenges, while simultaneously expanding the cultural and educational horizons of participating student delegates. This year’s Conference theme organized by the HCAP at the American University in Dubai is “Equality, Tolerance and Freedom: the Effect of Culture and Policy on a Globalized World.”



My Peace Education (Japan)

Academic Virtual presentation about my pedagogical approach and my research in three Lebanese universities from 2007 till 2014.

The 7th Asian Conference on Education,

Art Center of Kobe, Kobe, Japan

Wednesday, October 21 – Sunday, October 25, 2015

This virtual presentation is published here:

Conference Programme – View on issuu via a web browser: (p.90/100)


Dr. Pamela Chrabieh presents a paper entitled ‘Peace Education in Lebanon: Case Study in the University Context’ with a focus on the results of a qualitative research she conducted from 2007 till 2014 in three Lebanese Universities. Dr. Chrabieh has closely studied the initiatives of many peace activists in Lebanon from 2001 till 2007 and published a book about the subject ‘Voix-es de Paix au Liban’ (Voices/Paths of Peace in Lebanon) in 2008. When she came back from Canada to Lebanon and started teaching at St Josef University in Beirut, Notre Dame University and Holy Spirit University, she expanded her research to include high school students (with another book published in 2009) and 500 university students. This latest research’s progressive results were presented at Oxford-UK, Balamand-Lebanon, Istanbul-Turkey, Dubai-UAE and Rome-Italy. In her virtual presentation, Dr. Chrabieh introduces her audience to her final results, including her students’ visions of war and peace.

“Traumatic experiences of war may never disappear from the minds of many generations of Lebanese, and new wounded memories will be added to the old ones. But my research revealed the importance of creating alternative models of education through unconventional ideas and teaching techniques when it comes to the promotion of empathy, mutual respect and dialogue, as major peacebuilding pillars. Education, as I see it, is first and foremost about learning to be and become better human beings, capable of dealing with our individual and collective war traumas, of embracing our differences and constructing a common history/identity”.


One Coffee Bean at a Time

I was born and raised in a war zone, where the culture of war prevailed – and still is -, along with sectarianism, State paralysis, militias’ laws, negative media propaganda, hatred, conflictual identities, etc. I spent enough time in shelters or in displacement. I avoided snipers and land mines. I faced the destruction of our houses and the death of family members and friends. One of my favorite games was Harb (war).

When you live in a war zone and you survive it physically, it doesn’t mean you won’t be damaged psychologically. When the bloodshed stops, it doesn’t mean the war ends. Like so many others from my generation, I carry a load of war traumas. According to colleagues of mine (psychologists and psychiatrists), more than 60% of Lebanese developed serious mental illnesses due to PTSD. Their wounded memories and illnesses are transmitted to the new generations, along with what they already inherited from the distant past.

In this chaotic and sick environment, my first oasis was my family. My parents were peace agents when people around us were drowning in the sectarian sea. My father was probably the only one in his village who never accepted to be enrolled in any of the militias or political parties that controlled the areas we used to live in. He continued on being an educator, a school and university professor and became a well-known model of dialogue in the academic sphere. My mother is a lawyer and a feminist. She comes from a feudal background, a Sheikha. But she decided not to use her title in the public sphere. She worked for many years defending women in religious courts and she still has her doors open for abused women from different backgrounds and religious identities.

Over the years spent in Lebanon, then Canada, then back to Lebanon and now the UAE, and short stays in different countries, I found myself exposed to different forms of diversity and learned to live by the rules of different systems of diversity management. I had many experiences and encounters, both negative and positive, that contributed to my journey from war to peace, and to the expansion of my first oasis beyond the family cell.

I chose the most difficult path, to be against the current (Aaks al sayr), away from the common defense mechanisms such as the ostrich attitude, the blank Page and denial (what I call ‘mafichism’). It’s the path of continuous self-transformation in order to contribute to the change of my environment. It’s the path of dealing with one’s traumas, healing one’s wounds and enlarging one’s horizons in the quest for internal peace and peace with others.

I found a parable to illustrate the path I chose:
“A girl was so discouraged by her experiences in school (just like many are discouraged by the current situation in Lebanon) she told her grandmother she wanted to quit. Her grandmother filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. She placed in the first carrots, in the second eggs and the third ground coffee beans. Then she fished the carrots, pulled the eggs out and served the coffee in a cup and asked the girl: Tell we what do you see? “Carrots, eggs and coffee” the girl replied. Then she asked the girl to feel the carrots – she noted that they were soft and mushy. She told her to break an egg, but she couldn’t. It was a hard-boiled egg. She asked her to sip the coffee, which she did and tasted it with its rich aroma. The grandmother then explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each had reacted differently. ‘Which are you?’ the grandmother asked. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong but with pain becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that appears not to change but whose heart is hardened? Or the coffee bean that changes the hot water, the very circumstances that bring the pain, by releasing the fragrance and flavor?

The moral of the parable?
I confess: I am a coffee lover, a coffee addict.
I chose and choose every day, as much as possible, to become a coffee bean.
The environment we find ourselves living in or having to deal with plays a role in the shaping of one’s beliefs and genetics, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. What matters more is how we react to it, how we interpret our experiences and encounters, and when it seems that we can’t change our circumstances, we start by changing ourselves. I truly believe humans are not conditioned; they can alter their situation as well as their genes. Ever heard of brain plasticity? Of gene mutation?

My parents were my first proof that self-transformation and its positive impact are possible. Many individuals in Lebanon and outside Lebanon I encounter prove the possibility of change, and “hope is a pocket of possibilities, we just have to hold it more often in our hands”. Since 2001, my researches have revealed the existence of hundreds of peace agents, including here at the American University in Dubai. To the question I am often asked: ‘so how come we don’t have peace in Lebanon?’ My answer is:
Without those individuals, Lebanon would have disappeared a long time ago.
Old and new war traumas need time to heal and hard work at all levels (non-official and official).
The war’s causes are multiple, both internal and external.

As individuals in our own worlds, maybe we can’t change the external factors, but what we can do is something about the internal ones, especially when it comes to the psychological aspect of the war, the culture of war.
Truly, Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “You must be the change you want to see in the world” is not an ideal, it is a reality. One just has to believe in it, and believe that “Peace is a journey of a thousand miles; it must be taken one step at a time” (Lyndon B. Johnson).

And I will add: one coffee bean at a time.


My speech
‘Change to induce change’ round table (American University in Dubai, November 18, 2015)
AUD online publications – School of Arts and Sciences, November 22, 2015.