22.11.2015

“Achrafiyeh Invaded”: the Politics of Fear in a Visual Representation of the Lebanese Factionalism by Bruno Lefort

In February 2013, a short film appeared on the Internet commemorating the 2006 looting of the Danish Embassy in Achrafiyeh, the heartland of the Christian Beirut, following the publication of the Prophet’s cartoons. If the director and producer of the movie remain anonym, the clip was posted on a famous Internet video platform by an activist of the Free Patriotic Movement, a party mainly recruiting among Christians. The video plays on various temporalities – dis-articulating events to re-articulate in a predefined chain of meaning – so as to stage a memory of communal violence and fear.

I discuss how this representation is enunciated around the tropes of territorial invasion and struggle for survival, embodied by the continual evocation of Martyrs (shuhadâ’) whose meaning is to testify (shahada) the validity of the experience of intergroup violence conveyed in the film. In doing so, I argue that the film calls upon a political unconscious to activate an affectivity of communion (understood as a structure of relationality) addressed to the Lebanese Christians. Indeed, the images work as witnesses of their past suffering, of the memory of their internal strife, and of their precarious common fate in a region politically dominated by Islam. Conceivably labeled as political propaganda, this representation ultimately sustains a present day actualization of politics as factionalism: it witnesses the composition and mediation of an alleged resilient existential confrontation between everlasting identities.