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Hizbullah’s identity: Islam, nationalism and transnationalism

Hage Ali, Mohanad (2015) Hizbullah’s identity: Islam, nationalism and transnationalism. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis draws on the debates in nationalism studies to address the question of how Hizbullah’s identity is produced, and investigates the further questions of how modern is this identity, what are its main pillars, and who produces it and to what end. By analysing the findings of fieldwork observations and interviews, and applying discourse analysis to a range of official and unofficial party publications, and internal notes or memos, the thesis argues that Hizbullah, employing its transnational links, has constructed a revised identity among the Lebanese Shiʿa and overhauled traditional forms of Shiʿi practice through the various institutions it has established and expanded over the past two decades. The thesis examines how Hizbullah manages its identity dissemination through these numerous institutions by tailoring the Shiʿi identity it embodies to suit different audiences, while simultaneously keeping a tightly centralised control over their work through its Central Cultural Unit. The thesis further argues that Hizbullah’s re-creation of Shiʿi identity entails reconstructing the community’s history. The organisation’s historical narratives are based on twentieth-century Shiʿi histories – accounts that are mostly attributed to uncorroborated oral sources, but which nevertheless created novel notions of a historical ‘ʿAmili people’ and ‘ʿAmili resistance’. Such concepts are central to Hizbullah’s re-creation of Lebanese Shiʿi identity. The organisation’s main historical accounts, while partially based on these earlier histories, have also constructed new narratives, attributing these to fresh oral accounts, and suggesting continuity with Shiʿi history. This approach bears similarities to the efforts of nationalist intellectuals, who reconstruct historical accounts focused on establishing the historical origin and continuity of their nation. Hizbullah-affiliated publications incorporate advantageous supernatural accounts of its contemporary battles against Israeli occupation. These supernatural narratives build upon a Safavid tradition in Shiʿi theology, reintroduced by the Islamic Republic in Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The last chapter in the thesis looks at the interplay between the organisation’s transnational ideological links and its national politics, and argues that it uses these relations to support its political identity project for the Shiʿi community in Lebanon.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Mohanad Hage Ali
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Shakibi, Zhand and Hertog, Steffen

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