The Sovereignty of Kin: Political Discourse in Post-Ta’if Lebanon



The debate over sovereignty in Lebanon involves a battle among distinct and varying political imaginaries. This struggle is evident in the negotiation of the Syrian presence within Lebanon prior to the withdrawal of the Syrian military in the spring of 2005. I focus here on the early public call for change made by the Maronite Patriarch that preceded the broader national movement for Syrian withdrawal. I argue that this statement challenged previously entrenched concepts regarding the relationship between Syria and Lebanon and contributed to redefining Lebanese discourses of sovereignty. Specifically, I look at the metaphor of kin relations: aspects of a sibling relationship that embed Lebanon in a script of reciprocal obligations are contrasted with a more individuated notion of state rights. The rhetorical strategy of contrasting the rights and obligations of brotherhood relations through the use of marked terms of dependency and inequality became a means for revising the discussion of the political relationship between the two countries while still maintaining the trope of Arab brotherhood.