Border Lives: An Ethnography of a Lebanese Town in Changing Times


Border Lives offers an in-depth account of how people in Arsal, a northeastern town on the border of Lebanon with Syria, experienced postwar sociality, and how they grappled with living in the margins of the Lebanese state in the period following the 1975-1990 war.

In a rich ethnography of ‘changing times,’ Michelle Obeid shows how restrictions in cross-border mobility, transformations in physical and social spaces, burgeoning new industries and shifting political alliances produced divergent ideologies about domesticity and the family, morality and personhood.

Attending to metaphors of modernity in a rural border context, Border Lives broadens the sites in which modernity and social change can be investigated.

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Michelle Obeid, Ph.D. (2006), London School of Economics and Political Science, is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester.
"Michelle Obeid poetically captures the ardor and anguish of how Lebanese “yu-maddu”, daily manage in an isolated marginal rural town on the alternately porous and securitized border of Lebanon and Syria. Her subtle and sympathetic account offers a window to the transforming, at times violent, reality as the inhabitants seek normality, recount the laughter and familiarity of the past, are upended by the vicissitudes of social life, and push through borders and boundaries, grasping at a modernity they alternately mock and seek. Obeid offers a vivid and riveting story of life lived at the periphery."
Suad Joseph (Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, University of California, Davis)
List of Figures
Notes on Names and Transliteration

1 Introduction: Border Lives in Changing Times
 1 Figuring Out Border Lives
 2 Remoteness and Marginality at the Border
 3 The Ambivalence of Two States
 4 Rural Modernities

2 Sociality between Movement and Space
 1 New Capacities for Sociality
 2 The Workings of ʿIshra
 3 Domestic Spaces, Gender and Consumption

3 Living Well: Experiments in Livelihoods
 1 Livelihoods as an Ongoing Experiment
 2 Livelihoods in the Shadow of an ‘Evil State’
 3 Contested Moral Economies

4 Pastoralists: Living the Past in the Present
 1 Transhumance and Political Change
 2 Spatial and Human Organisation
 3 Herding Dilemmas
 4 Conflicts of Interest
 5 Envying ‘the Comfortable Woman’

5 Marriage between Love and Fate
 1 The Befalling of Nasīb
 2 The Vocabulary of Modern Marriage
 3 Intergenerational Negotiations
 4 When Negotiation Fails

6 Suspicion and Scorpions: The Morality of Kinship
 1 Ensnaring Brothers and Suspicious Sisters
 2 Of Failed Bargains
 3 The Morality of Kinship

7 Local Elections: Politics at the Margin
 1 1963: Familism, a Divisive Force
 2 1998: ʿĀʾila Redeemed
 3 Familism Strikes Back
 4 Corruption that Compromises National Pride
 5 The 2004 Lists: ‘Old Wine, New Bottles?’
 6 New Council, New Directions

8 What the Future Hides
 1 A Visit in Post-Syrian Time
 2 Is it Possible to Move Backwards?
All interested in Lebanon, state and border studies, the anthropology of kinship, gender and personhood, and postwar studies. The book will benefit undergraduate and postgraduate students in anthropology, social sciences and gender studies, academic libraries, and bookshops in Lebanon.
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