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Theses and Dissertations

Name:Chad Kassem Radwan
Degree:Ph.D.
Professor:Kevin A. Yelvington
Year:2016
Title:The Sweet Burden: Constructing and Contesting Druze Heritage and Identity in Lebanon
  
Abstract:

This dissertation research examines how shared aspects of identity are constructed among the Druze in Lebanon and how it contributes to conceptualizations of heritage. Assessing the educational resources focused on aspects of Druze heritage, the barriers to cultural preservation were elucidated. Utilizing a number of qualitative research methods, participants’ feedback constructed a narrative that considers what they believe to be at risk for their community. These issues included addressing a perceived knowledge gap wherein the majority of Druze expressed a need to expand the educational resources in their community. Participants defined the kinds of resources and social supports that are lacking and explained how existing texts, lectures, and seminars should be improved, increased, and made more accessible.
This dissertation is a result of ethnographic fieldwork which I conducted throughout 2014. Having lived in the town of Aley, Lebanon, I conducted research interviews with individuals that represented a broad spectrum of society, taking into account women and men of different ages with diverse social, economic, and educational backgrounds. Through participant observation, I shared many of the daily experiences of research participants and observed the Druze in their regular lives, their social gatherings, and at sites of historical significance.
Using a political economic theoretical framework, this research also explored the diversity of ways in which social phenomena are contested among the Druze in Lebanon. While much of the anthropological and social science research on heritage focuses on its material components, utilizing pre-established models that conflate heritage with tangible symbolic expressions, a political economic approach insists that the context of social structures are taken into account. This also lends itself to a conceptualization of heritage as a process by which individuals create meaning in their lives, which are shaped by social contexts such as history and contemporary culture. This research highlights the fact that a priori models that fail to consider both social structures and the fundamental perspectives of participants are based upon ideologies that lack a critical academic lens.
This dissertation demonstrates that while Druze particularism often necessitated a level of conformity and ascription to traditional values, the diversity of individual approaches to shared identity contributed to the plasticity of cultural forms and varieties of self-expression. As well, expanded and improved educational resources that encourage individuals to learn more about their history and the basic tenets of their faith were widely seen as a valued means of ensuring the society’s continuation.