Middle East Studies Association Virtual Conference 5th to 17th October 2020
Dr Julie Norman discusses 'Challenging Amnesia in Lebanon: Confronting the Past through Creative Activism'
In post-conflict societies, local NGOs, artists, and other civil society actors often use creative approaches to help communities deal with the past, especially in the absence of formal transitional justice mechanisms. At the virtual MESA Conference (5th October to 17th October 2020), Dr Julie Norman participates in the Panel Discussion 'Contending with Lebanon's Civil War' at 11.00am (EST) 16:00 (GMT) on 14th October. Julie discusses a specific arts-based approach in Lebanon, where, despite the end of the civil war in 1990, communities remain divided due to lack of implementation of transitional justice processes.
"To confront the ‘amnesia’ about the civil war, the NGO Fighters for Peace (FFP), comprised of former combatants from the civil war, joined with Laban, a playback theatre company, to engage communities in participatory storytelling to facilitate discussion and healing about the past. In the presented paper, we first describe the context of ‘amnesia’ in Lebanon; we then discuss the activities of FFP with a focus on their collaboration with Laban; and finally we examine the impact of playback theatre on the storytellers, performers, and audience members. We find that the participatory and artistic nature of playback theatre allows for the unique explorations of difficult stories that can create spaces for difficult conversations and at times reconciliation. Further, we find that theatre and storytelling can function as a form of resistance by providing a space for creative activism, as was the case during the early months of the 2019-2020 revolution in Lebanon."
The findings are based on original interviews, focus groups, and surveys conducted by the authors Juile Norman and Andrew Mikhael.