Reorientation: Time and Space in the Cultural Sites of Hizballah and March 14
This study groups Hizballah’s museums and temporary exhibitions with March 14’s memorials, posters, and reconstructed downtown district of Beirut under the rubric of “cultural sites” in order to compare both phenomena. The comparison of the two seemingly disparate projects reveals them as means of articulating political ideology with lived experience by using techniques of representation and commemoration to render such basic dimensions as time and space once again legible and meaningful after the far-reaching dislocation of the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. Widespread displacement and migration, the dismemberment of space into particularized cantons of difference, and the disruption of normal temporal rhythms meant that time and space were no longer reliable aspects of experience. After the war, Hizballah and March 14 (led by the Future Movement) embarked on projects of place-making that engaged with time and space: through commemoration of martyrs (for both groups) and uses of two kinds of heterotopias (museums for Hizballah, and Timothy Mitchell’s “the world-as-exhibition” for March 14). In doing so, they created understandings of time and space that offer the prospect of reorientation.Following cultural geography in its understanding of culture as both inherently political and intrinsically emplaced, the study brings together literatures on commemoration, representation, the museum, the archive, and the simulacrum to illustrate how the two groups have created heterotopias that not only are different from the rest of the world, but remake that world. Each project offers a mode of apprehending time and space, and the values that arise from them—history, geography, desired futures—that can resolve the disorientation of the Civil War in favor of a holistic understanding not simply of Lebanon, but of one’s place in it. These modes of apprehension constitute what Richard Sennett has termed “an approach to difference after violence,” or how the molding of space reflects and responds to social difference that has led to past violence. Thus examining the two place-making projects reveals, in addition to aspects of Hizballah’s and March 14’s agenda, how difference is continuing to operate in Lebanon after the war.
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