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Failure and the politically possible: space, time and emotion among independent activists in Beirut, Lebanon

Musallam, Fuad (2016) Failure and the politically possible: space, time and emotion among independent activists in Beirut, Lebanon. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is concerned with how political activists in Lebanon maintain political engagement when at every moment it appears easier for them to give up. Within such an ethnographic context of ‘failure’, it grapples with how a political subjectivity predicated upon the desire for radically transformative action is produced and maintained. It contends that political subjectivity comes about through political engagement, not prior to it, and contours the experiential basis of political activism in its wake. To account for how activist political subjectivity is maintained, this thesis looks to the key roles played by politicised emotions and diffuse solidary feeling states in making the political and social worlds activists inhabit sensible. It attends, too, to the significance of intense moments of protest in producing and maintaining an activist political subjectivity: in the experience of protest, in its continued circulation after the fact in narrative form, and in the effects it has on the temporality of future action. As such, the thesis makes use of an event-centred methodology to better account for the transformative potential of action. The distinctive theoretical contributions of this thesis are fourfold: 1) to show how the passionate and experiential dimensions of activism are fundamental rather than epiphenomenal aspects of the political, contributing to the broader interdisciplinary study of mobilisation, activism, and radical politics; 2) to argue ethnographically that affect is not and can never be pre-social – and is as such an anthropological object of analysis – thereby adding to more recent anthropological scholarship on affect; 3) to show how overlapping temporal circuits and senses of self-in-time make activists ‘affectable’ in particular ways at particular moments, contributing to the growing anthropological literatures on historicity and temporality; and 4) to demonstrate the importance of an event-centred methodology for anthropological engagements with transformative action.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Fuad Musallam
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Chalcraft, John and Banerjee, Mukulika

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