The Power of Remembrance. Political Parties, Memory, and Learning about the Past

22. September 2017, Seminar, OI Beirut

Lebanese political parties foster different narratives of the past, which consist of opposing and contradicting interpretations of historical events, especially with regard to the violent episodes of the recent past. The parties undertake huge efforts to create and perpetuate their own distinctive cultures of remembrance, often through exercising influence in many spheres including education. As there is no dominant national narrative in Lebanon, the conflicting interpretations of the past reinforce antagonisms between different groups of society. Moreover, the process of agreeing on a single, national narrative poses a threat to further conflict and alienation of partisans from political parties. As a consequence, all attempts to reform the national history curriculum have failed since 1970.

Based on a theoretical framework of collective political memory and different approaches of learning about the past in history education, the research study investigates the use of memory by various political parties in Lebanon in the political and educational domains. It identifies common themes and narratives and explains the purposes of these cultures of remembrance. It also illustrates the roles, visions and approaches of political parties in formal and non-formal education. The main argument of the study is that having multiple [hi]stories could be a more reasonable and realistic approach to dealing with a violent past that avoids further conflict and encourages dialogue between political groups. This argument is based on the political and cultural diversity of the Lebanese society which is regarded as a cultural strength. This approach could be supported by the application of the ‘disciplinary approach’ for learning about the past which requires learners to use historical concepts to construct conclusions by critically examining multiple sources of evidence and various interpretations of historical events.

The seminar takes place at the OI Beirut.

 Short biographies:

Mara Albrecht, PhD, is Assistant Professor for History of West Asia at the Department of History, University of Erfurt, Germany. Her PhD thesis, titled “War of symbols. Political parties and political culture in Lebanon”, is concerned with the political narratives as well as the symbolic forms and practices relevant for the creation of political culture in contemporary Lebanon. Apart from the modern history of Lebanon, her research interests also include spaces and cultures of violence, divided cities and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Bassel Akar, PhD, is Director of the Center for Applied Research in Education and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Humanities at Notre Dame University – Louaize, Lebanon. As a member of the Lebanese Association for History, he mentors history teachers in Lebanon facilitating disciplinary approaches to learning history in classrooms. Bassel’s research also focuses on learning and teaching for active citizenship research methodologies that engage young people in open-ended exercises.