The Syrian crisis and the crisis of masculinity – Lajeh Seminar, October, 22nd, 2017

The seminar will take place at Ifpo from 9.30 am to 11.30 a.m (the seminar is not opened to public).


The presentation of Philip Proudfoot will focus on masculinity and consumption practices amongst male Syrian migrant workers and part-time rebels in Beirut. On the basis of over four years of participant-observation (2011 – 2016) he will show how, in addition to knowing and participating in the revolution up close and at a distance, Syrian migrant workers in Beirut had to negotiate its social, political and economic fallout. He will describe how, in relation to events across the border, male migrants engaged in certain self-fashioning practices through which different and often seemingly contradictory assumptions, attitudes, and patterns of behavior emerged. It is possible to identify three models of masculinity around which men recognized themselves and others: (1) al-shabāb; [lads] (2) al-kibār [elders] and (3) al-thuwwār [rebels]. The presentation will deploy ethnographic vignettes to reveal how al- thuwwār were able to upset more traditional patriarchal power relations between younger and older migrants. These vignettes demonstrate how transformations in masculine self-fashioning occurred as men adjusted to the impossibility of return, and thereby dealt with the fact Lebanon no longer appeared a temporary destination. From cash generating labor abroad an earlier generation of Syrian men transitioned from youthful indulgences as al-shabāb in the city to heads of household back home as al-kibār. But as this pattern collapsed, Syrian laborers began building lives for themselves in Beirut. Yet, without the economic means to anchor values associated with being an elder man — like providing for a family — this transition became a performance without a stage, with al-thuwwār playing the leading role.

Dr Philip Proudfoot  

Dr Philip Proudfoot is a political anthropologist of the Levant region. In late 2016 he joined the British Institute in Amman shortly after having completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. Currently, Philip is preparing his doctoral thesis — The Living Dead: Revolutionary Subjectivity and Syrian Rebel-Workers in Beirut — for publication (Stanford University Press). This work was based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork that he carried out amongst a network of Syrian labourers in Beirut (2011 – 2015). From a bottom-up perspective, Philip describes the personal and political transformations of men whose voices are frequently silenced in the face of today’s brutal proxy war. Before joining CBRL Philip was an analyst with the Beirut Research and Innovation Center (BRIC) where he worked on establishing a women’s coalition for gender equality in the Lebanese City of Tripoli.

Philip’s principal research interests cluster around issues of conflict & violence, forced migration, populism, revolutionary art and aesthetic production, rural to urban populations, and working class cultures.