Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

AUSTRALIAN SCHOLAR WRITING ON HISTORY AND CULTURES OF LEBANON’S CATHOLICS

 by Dr Dennis Walker, Researcher,
 Monash Asia Institute/PSI, Monash University Australia,
                                    
                               I have for the last ten years been writing on computer a series of three books covering the whole 19th century and twentieth-century history and cultures of Lebanon's Catholics --- primarily the Maronites.  I did the basic research for this book from microfilms of Catholic newspapers in Arabic, notably _al-Bashir_,  that I read in the Department of Middle East Studies at Melbourne University from 1971-1974.  I have since 2002  visited Lebanon five times to gather data and fill in gaps for my book, living in the German Orient Research Institute in Bayrut and in Dayr Ghusta doing my research under Rev Dr Yusuf Azzi.
                               I am due to travel by air to Beirut on 15 September 2013 --- in three weeks! --- to complete the first volume of my three-volume study of Lebanon’s Catholics.  I will spend eight weeks in Lebanon (unless too many exploding bombs delay my departure!).  The published book should total 350 pages.  It will be titled _Lebanon’s Catholics to the End of the Ottoman Period and the Coming of French Mandatory Rule_.

1:  _CONCERNS AND STRUCTURE OF MY BOOK ON LEBANON_
                          My first book, the first volume of the three, will be titled _Culture and Community Ideas among Lebanon's Catholics, 1850-2000_.  I must stress that my study will focus on Arabic and French high cultures and intellectual discourses among the Maronites.  Thereby, it will pull discussion somewhat away from the factional-political and economic dimensions, and International Relations, on which recent historical works about the Maronites published from the West since 1980 have concentrated.
                    Volume I will contain five chapters:
          CH 1: The Maronites in the Ottoman Period from 1800 to 1918 [concentrating on the post-1900 period].  This chapter will assess (1) the spread of missionary  institutions and the French language in the 19th centyry, (2) the Maronite clergy's development of Arabist scholarship and creative literature (_Adab_)  and Catholic theological learning and journalism in Arabic, (3) the crystallization of radically modernist and anti-clerical ideas among intellectuals influenced by freemasonry and French anti-clericalism and (4) the modernization and integration of general Lebanese society under the Ottomans.  However, my discussion will direct some attention to events in 1860 and suffering of the Lebanese during World War 1.   
          BK  2: France's Imposition of her Limited Rule on Lebanon after World War 1 and Early Pan-Catholic and Particularist Ideas among its Catholics under the Mandate.  The Maronite Church's role in the mobilization of local and international support for the creation of Greater Lebanon.  France's role in establishing modern infra-structure and the evolving Maronite merchant class' developmentalist concepts of economic affiliation to the French Empire and West Europe in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Ottoman rule.  The main conservative pan-Catholic intellectual examined will be Fr Butrus Ghalib, author of the 1923 book _Sadiqah wa Hamiyah_ that reviewed the Lebanese Catholics' whole historical relationship with France and West Europe.  However, I am giving some coverage of early crude motifs of Phoenician identity in the 1920s.
          BK  3: Social Change and Arabist, Syrianist, and anti-Clerical/Modernist Ideas among Lebanese Catholics in the 1920s.  Anti-French cultural identifications among Lebanese Catholics in the 1920s.  This Chapter will primarily be an impressionistic view of the rapid changes in Lebanese society and culture under early French mandatory rule.  I hope to draw a lot of the data from Maronite belles-lettres of the period.    
          BK. 4: The crystallization of ideology.  The Widening roles of the Maronite church under the leadership of Patriarch Ilyas Butrus al-Huwayyik, the Father of Lebanese Independence. Amin al-Rayhani as a modernist and a Pan-Arab, but with close attention to counter-critiques of him from the Maronite high clergy.  That should give a richer context of Catholic civil society as a whole, and the development of religious Lebanese particularist nationalism in reaction to wider Arab linguistic nationalism.
          BK 5: The foundation of Lebanon’s political parliamentary democracy and private-enterprise economy.

 _APPROACHES OF MY PLANNED THREE-VOLUME SERIES_
          My post-modern study of the modern Christian Lebanese to 2010 will seek out inner dividedness or many-mindedness in the psyches of many Maronite politicians and intellectuals.  Lebanon was a meeting-place for the whole Middle East and between the Arab World and the West.  Maronite personality has beeen formed out of a multiplicity of cultures: (a) standard high Arabic dating back to pre-Islamic Arabia; (b) colloquial Arabic which voices a recent post-classical ethos defined by place (Lebanon/the Fertile Crescent); (c) Syriac and Syriac Christianity; (d) Latin Catholicism; (e) French and the post-Christian radical secularism that flourished in France's intellectualism and republican polity; (f) Anglo-Saxon cultures associated with globalizing modernity since World War II and (g) the neighboring entity of Islam whose Arabic discourses Lebanese Catholics constantly overhear.  This diversity of influences in the make-up of Lebanese Catholics greatly explains the divergent --- or complex --- attitudes of their writers.  Most Lebanese Catholics have wanted some sort of community with the West, but the studies in Western languages have missed the tensions and cultural depersonalization this too often entailed.  Not all quality Maronite discourse has always closed meaning or dichotomized (a) the Maronite entity as an affiliate of the West against (b) the Arabo-Muslim world in the radically separated way that a substantial school of Lebanese politicians/writers, and some Western scholars, has.  I aim to show the protean diversity of Maronite discourse before 1950 in order to present the problems and divisions, but also to show successes by the Maronite ethos in balancing commitments to (a) Lebanon, (b) the wide Arab World, (c) the West and (e) bilingualism and high Arabic.
          My book will draw somewhat more from high literature than political communications.  I also want to shift the focus from the three small elites of politicians, writers and entrepreneurs to the day-to-day life and ethos of wider sectors of Catholic populations.  Ordinary people do have their own rueful and iconoclastic perspectives.
          I want my book to be different from the other histories of Lebanon written in Western languages.  The way that I hope to do this is by mixing images and passages from Catholic Lebanese high literature into the discussion of historical, political and ideolological issues. I want my 350-page book that goes up to 1925. and the subsequent two volumes, to give a sense of the personal lives and thoughts  of Catholic individuals.

                   _The West_.
          The ongoing responsiveness to the wide Arab World was inherent in Lebanon's geographical position and international role as an economic as well as cultural junction between East and West.  This link-role, though, equally entailed ongoing, changing, evolving relations with not just France but a widening range of Westerners and their cultures.  I shall accordingly trace the mixed and ambivalent, shifting, attitudes of various categories of Maronites and Melkites to France after 1935 in the period of her imperial decline and her destruction as a great power by Nazi Germany.  I want to measure and assess how close Maronite writers and observers could get to realistic understandings of France's society and culture on their own terms --- beyond use of France as an instrument to secure the interests of a Maronite people vis-a-vis hinterland Arabs and Muslims.  I believe that my further research in Lebanon will show that the fundamental strains and difficulties for integrating the Maronites' special Catholicism with secular aspects of French society and thought remained in the period in which Lebanon achieved independence, despite the much more West-tinted and secular nature of Lebanese society by 1939 compared to 1918.  I shall try to evaluate the increasing focus of Lebanese Catholics on Anglo-Saxon societies, cultures and states: the geopolitical context is the role of the British in Lebanon's achievement of independence, and the attempt by the Kamil Sham'un administration to ally with America against the camp of Arab nationalism through the Eisenhower Doctrine.  As always in my book, though, I shall be pulling my discussion over into works of high literature in Arabic and French, and the lives and perceptions of ordinary Lebanese.

               _Economics_.
          The economic stance remained fairly constant under Bisharah al-Khuri and Kamil Sham'un: most Maronite intellectual leaders wanted the newly-independent country to develop a radical laissez-faire capitalism that few Western states followed by the 1960s.  The deflationary, free monetary structure and flexible foreign exchange and low tariffs that the Lebanese state fostered after 1945 were an economic liberalism original to Lebanon at a time when the Western states were moving to greater intervention by their governments in economic matters.  Lebanon in the 1950s and 1960s anticipated the whole world's deregulation and globalization of economies in the 1980s and 1990s.  Rather than an uncritical Westernism, it is these points of originality that to my mind make the twentieth century history  of Catholic Lebanon truly worth studying.

2: MY SECOND AND THIRD BOOKS ON LEBANON’S CATHOLICS:

      _Tensions and Conflicts between Christians and Muslims_
          Much literature published about Lebanon in the West has focused on political tensions between Lebanese sects in government and parliamentarism, fighting between those Lebanese sects, and conflicts between categories of Lebanese Christians and intervening foreigners.  My own focus will shift somewhat to those factors that, by the early 1970s, were working to integrate as well as polarize the Lebanese groups: the somewhat unsatisfactory Lebanese state might have survived with reforms had not the Palestinians and Israel confronted it with problems beyond any reasonable capacity.  I do not intend to quote Muslim Lebanese much in my Maronite-centric book: to the extent that I do, I will assess pan-Arab word-games of still underprivileged Sunni sub-groups in the independent Lebanon polity as mostly a protest rhetoric for getting into a mainstream whose Maronite establishment had long been a covert model for Sunni malcontents.
          On the whole, my book will stress interesting successes of independent Lebanon's state and society in integrating a new multi-sectarian national community.  The new Lebanese state did not lift ordinary Sunnis to parity with the quickly-progressing Maronites, but its expanding state educational system did make even poorer Sunnis literate.  Thus, the Sunni sect's prospects were improving in the free-wheeling economy.

      _The Kata'ib and the Quwwat Lubnaniyyah_
          My book will attempt a revisionist account of the evolution of the Kata'ib from 1936-1995 that will be culture-orientated in contrast to John Entelis' organizational focus.  I will give prominence to the Catholic-Christian drives of the Kata'ib, and to the Party's perceptions of its interactions with the Maronite clerical hierarchy, and its images of Western countries and Western cultures.  Entelis and other analysts have focused on the Kata'ib's roles in different periods as a rallying-point during polarization between Lebanese Catholics and Muslim Arab forces.  While I will of course take due account of such themes in Kata'ib discourses, I will also seek formulations in them that are fairly open or constructive to outside Arabo-Muslim states and high cultures.  (The early Kata'ib had some good interactions with pre-1952 Egyptian and 'Iraqi pan-Arabs).
          Above all, I want to scan the Kata'ib's French and Arabic publications in mandatory and early independent Lebanon for evidence of its function as a framework from which new rising Catholic strata could assert themselves against established rich, powerful Catholic groups.  The early Kata'ib definitely had this anti-establishment role as a rather anti-parliamentary paramilitarist youth movement (1936-1942).  In its period of party-paramilitarism synthesis in the developing Lebanese national state and its institutions in the 1950s and 1960s, the Kata'ib moderated its early protest functions.  Its main activity was directed to increasing its representation in parliament; and in 1958, while standing against pan-Arabism, it was closing ranks with other Maronite and Christian groups.  Yet, after 1975, the Kata'ib produced a new off-shoot that tried to take over or sweep away the old Maronite parliamentarians and their party-structure.  Thus, the Kata'ib has been a forum or matrix for attempts to radically restructure and reintegrate Maronite society that have to be researched.
          The final section of my book will have in it a review of the motifs and proto-ideology of the new Catholic micronationalism that developed around the Lebanese Forces in the context of sieges and evacuations in Mountain Lebanon in the 1980s.
                  I have been receiving data and resources from the Lebanese community here on the development of Lebanese society and intellectual cultures from 1975 to today.  I appreciate this help that the Maronite and Melkite communities in Australia have given me in order to help me to help them by producing English-language books on their history that will help a new generation here who cannot read Arabic understand the country of their forefathers, Lebanon.
                   Any very modest financial help from Lebanese Austra\lians towards my expenses in Lebanon will be welcome and acknowledged in my printed book.  I’m going at my own expense into a Lebanon I like and which the tourists are leaving.
                  Dr Dennis Walker,  Researcher,
                  Monash Asia Institute, Monash University, Caulfield 3145.
                   Email: --- dennis.walker@monash.edu
                   Phone: 9540 8441 (mornings).

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