PhD Oral Exam - Mounir Katul, Political Science
The Influence of International Domestic Politics on the Production of Ethnic Identities: The Position of Ethnic Leaders from Changing International Alignments and Construction of Identities in Lebanon (2000 - 2010)
This event is free
School of Graduate Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Ethnic leaders’ appeals center on polarizing ethnic identities for support in general, and during elections in specific, and it has been a general consensus until recently in electoral systems-based theories that these appeals are shaped by domestic factors such as local cultural institutions and electoral systems. For example, these theories argue that electoral systems that encourage inter-communal vote-pooling also encourage ethnic parties to forge inter-ethnic coalitions to win parliamentary elections and thus to avoid appeals based on narrowly interpreted identities that alienate the supporters of their allies. However, it is the contention of this dissertation that coalition formation and, subsequently, ethnic appeals, are not always dependent on domestic causes; rather, a major influence on an ethnic leader’s choices of identities and domestic alliances is the interplay between international actors and domestic leaders. More specifically, rivalries between international state actors manifest as ethnic rivalries between ethnic leaders when the latter form coalitions on the basis of shared allegiances to the same foreign backer or bloc. Bound by their allegiances to international actors (out of either opportunism or ideological conviction), ethnic leaders re-conceptualize salient identities, revisiting specific historical narratives in order to accommodate new domestic alliances based totally or in part on international interstate blocs and to defend their domestic and international blocs.
Taking Lebanon (2000-2010) as a case study, this research focuses on four Lebanese ethnic parties (The Phalange, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Future Movement, and Hezbollah) and tracks both shifts and consistencies in their ethnic appeals before and after a major political event of international proportion in Lebanon: the assassination of ex-prime minister Rafic Hariri in February 2005 and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon after domestic and international pressure. Of the four ethnic parties I study, two abandoned their international allies after the Syrian withdrawal and joined the “enemy” camp, and the other two maintained their positions vis-à-vis these alignments. I treat the former as an experimental group, and the latter as a control group. This variation in behavior, as a result of changes in competitive advantages between international blocs, provides empirical evidence on the extent of international – domestic alliances that shape ethnic leaders’ choices of identity appeals. Quantifying over 4,500 speeches given by leaders of these four parties over the course of this decade in Lebanon, this research applies the Constructivist lens, which treats all identities as social constructions, and discourse analysis to compare the types of identities that ethnic leaders directly appeal upon for support before and after they change coalitions. My project contributes to emerging trends in Consociational Democracy that highlight the importance of analyzing international actors’ interests in stabilizing divided societies, and in geo-strategic studies, that analyze the impact of international alignments on weak states and salient identities.