Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

Synopsis

French rule in Syria and Lebanon coincided with the rise of colonial resistance around the world and with profound social trauma after World War I. In this tightly argued study, Elizabeth Thompson shows how Syrians and Lebanese mobilized, like other colonized peoples, to claim the terms of citizenship enjoyed in the European metropole. The negotiations between the French and citizens of the Mandate set the terms of politics for decades after Syria and Lebanon achieved independence in 1946. Colonial Citizens highlights gender as a central battlefield upon which the relative rights and obligations of states and citizens were established. The participants in this struggle included not only elite nationalists and French rulers, but also new mass movements of women, workers, youth, and Islamic populists. The author examines the "gendered battles" fought over France's paternalistic policies in health, education, labor, and the press. Two important and enduring political structures issued from these conflicts: ¿ First, a colonial welfare state emerged by World War II that recognized social rights of citizens to health, education, and labor protection. ¿ Second, tacit gender pacts were forged first by the French and then reaffirmed by the nationalist rulers of the independent states. These gender pacts represented a compromise among male political rivals, who agreed to exclude and marginalize female citizens in public life. This study provides a major contribution to the social construction of gender in nationalist and postcolonial discourse. Returning workers, low-ranking religious figures, and most of all, women to the narrative history of the region -- figures usually omitted -- Colonial Citizens enhances our understanding of the interwar period in the Middle East, providing needed context for a better understanding of statebuilding, nationalism, Islam, and gender since World War II.

Excerpt

This book is a study of how states and their citizens are constructed under colonialism and then bequeathed to their postcolonial successors. It begins with the proposition that even as colonial peoples waged nationalist battles for independence they inevitably participated in the very political order that they rejected. Linked to that proposition is a second one, that colonizers could not and did not unilaterally impose a system of rule. Colonialism involved, as do most other political systems, constant negotiation of power relationships and identities. Such negotiation often came across the barrels of guns, but it more routinely occurred across desks and tables, and in newspapers and telegrams. Negotiators struck bargains along the way that shaped the powers and responsibilities of the state and the rights and obligations of colonial citizens.

The resultant network of power relationships constitutes the colonial civic order, a term I use to designate the broad arena in which states and citizens interact. The civic order embodies norms and institutions that govern relations among citizens and between citizens and the state. It is within the civic order that the terms of citizenship and state power are both expressed and continually renegotiated among agents of the formal state apparatus, its unofficial agents, and their clients. The term civic order is useful because it emphasizes the fluidity of interaction and negotiation, and deemphasizes the boundary between state and society. Indeed, in colonial contexts, clear boundaries rarely existed, as colonizers routinely depended upon indigenous intermediaries to exercise rule. Bargains struck between the state and its mediating agents set the terms of membership in the civic order, and consequently defined terms of citizenship variously for different groups within the population.

This book is concerned specifically with the construction of a colonial civic order in Syria and Lebanon, countries created by European powers after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I and governed by the . . .

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