Social Movements Observatory at the Centre for Lebanese Studies
About the Project
This project proposes establishing a Social Movements Observatory based at the Center for Lebanese Studies (CLS). The Observatory will serve as the first local hub for archiving and data collection on social movements in Lebanon. The proposed Observatory will be focusing on studying contentious politics and social movements in Lebanon. It will serve academics, researchers, students, journalists, artists, activists, and the general audience interested in understanding social movements and popular contention in the Arab region within a broader historical perspective. The proposed Observatory will work on building a historical database of social movements in Lebanon and the Arab region later (selected countries). This project will provide rich and novel data that will tremendously advance our understanding of contentious politics, uprisings, and revolutions (/counterrevolutions) in Lebanon and beyond.
Why Social Movements in Lebanon?
Lebanon has been experiencing, since 2019, one of the most severe economic crises the world has ever witnessed. This project offers us the possibility to re-center the social question while the region is bustling with studies on geopolitics or politics in general. Through studying social movements, we are bringing in the story of how society is changing as we are trying to understand tactics and methods of resistance from below, what works and doesn’t work, and the state’s response.
We will be addressing the magnitude of the social transformation that took place in postwar Lebanon. We will also focus on the accumulation of this history of mobilizations and at the same time problems of despair and broken networks. The project is an entry point to study the crisis of the country from a different vantage point. It will also help try to understand the main obstacles these movements faced in postwar Lebanon and the challenges they went through to attain their goals through democratic means of protest. While Lebanese have been able to signal their discontent on countless occasions, they are yet to achieve change.
We will follow three main methods: (1) event catalogs (based on local newspaper archives and digital media), (2) oral history (based on interviews and life histories), and (3) surveys (based on regular survey data collection). The archives and the collected datasets will be made available for researchers interested in studying social movements in the Middle East by creating an online repository and a searchable database. Moreover, the Observatory will also serve as a regional hub of expertise for the study of social movements, thus convening scholars and activists working on the topic and hosting regular conferences, workshops, and seminars.