Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria

By Lisa Wedeen

Treating rhetoric and emblems as crucial instead of peripheral to politics, Lisa Wedeen’s groundbreaking e-book deals a compelling counterargument to people who insist that politics is basically approximately fabric pursuits and the teams advocating for them. throughout the thirty-year rule of President Hafiz al-Asad’s regime, his picture was once in all places. In newspapers, on tv, and through orchestrated spectacles. Asad used to be praised because the “father,” the “gallant knight,” even the country’s “premier pharmacist.” but such a lot Syrians, together with those that create the reliable rhetoric, didn't think its claims. Why might a regime spend scarce assets on a character cult whose content material is patently spurious?

Wedeen exhibits how such flagrantly fictitious claims have been in a position to produce a politics of public dissimulation during which voters acted as though they respected the chief. by means of inundating lifestyle with drained symbolism, the regime exercised a refined, but powerful type of strength. The cult labored to implement obedience, result in complicity, isolate Syrians from each other, and set guidance for public speech and behaviour. Wedeen‘s ethnographic learn demonstrates how Syrians famous the disciplinary facets of the cult and sought to undermine them. In a brand new preface, Wedeen discusses the rebellion opposed to the Syrian regime that begun in 2011 and questions the usefulness of the idea that of legitimacy in attempting to learn and comprehend authoritarian regimes.

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Reagan, Gorbachev, and Asad occasion. Reagan says, "} make 200,000 cash in line with 12 months. " Gorbachev says, "} make a hundred rubles in line with 12 months. " Asad says, "} make 10,000 Syrian lira according to 12 months. " "How do you reside on that wage? " the opposite ask. "Oh, my little ones ship me anything each month" (1988). The comic story refers to Asad's selfproclaimed position as patriarch, his reliance at the self-sacrifice of teenagers, and the primary corruption that permits a few Syrians (in this example, implicating Asad) to make significantly greater than their common source of revenue. the next heads-of-state funny story internalizes the claims of Arab inferiority and "backwardness" ordinary in colonial and Orientalist literature. however the funny story additionally counters an legitimate Syrian discourse that highlights "progress," hyperlinks it to Asad's Corrective flow, and aestheticizes Syrian improvement initiatives in public spectacles. Bush, Mitterrand, and Asad all die. Bush asks God: "When will my humans be built? " God replies: "After symptoms OF TRANSGRESSION 50 years. " Bush starts off to cry. Mitterrand asks God, "When will my humans be built? " God solutions: "After a hundred years. " Mitterrand starts off to cry. Asad asks: "When will the Arabs be constructed? " God starts off to cry (1992). fifty eight one other funny story invokes the three-heads-of-state formulation to underscore the excellence among loyalty and coercive compliance: Bush, Gorbachev, and Asad are in a race. Bush's bodyguard includes him until eventually they succeed in a river. The river has crocodiles in it, and the bodyguard refuses to go it: "} have youngsters, relatives tasks .... " They go back. Gorbachev's bodyguard consists of him to the river, and he too refuses to move it: "} have young ones, kinfolk duties .... " in addition they go back. Asad's bodyguard consists of Asad to the river and dives in, dodging the crocodiles. the opposite bodyguards are surprised and ask: "How might you do it? " Asad's bodyguard replies: "} have childrens, family members tasks .... " (1989). activities, the shaggy dog story indicates, might seem to be influenced through loyalty, yet they're rather encouraged through worry. eventually, the heads-of-state formulation works to spotlight the connection among which means and context, thereby distinguishing affective allegiance, which Syrians understand to be universal in Western democracies, from its Syrian simulacrum. Reagan, Mitterrand, and Asad meet. Reagan brags, "My topics are so dependable that one regiment is prepared to die for me. " the opposite leaders are incredulous. So Reagan summons the warriors and likely adequate, on being ordered to, the boys start to devote suicide. Horrified, Reagan orders them to prevent. Mitterrand boasts, "My matters are so dependable that regiments are keen to die for me. " Reagan and Asad are uncertain. So Mitterrand instructions his squaddies to begin committing suicide, and the troops start to accomplish that. Aghast, Mitterrand begs them to forestall. Hafiz boasts, "My males are so unswerving that 3 regiments are keen to die for me. " Seeing the opposite leaders uncertain, Asad orders his troops to begin killing themselves.

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