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Title: Imperialism and cultural institutions : the formation of French Syria and Lebanon
Author: Ouahes, Idir
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 0550
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
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French rule over Syria and Lebanon was premised on a vision of a special French protectorate established by centuries of cultural activity; archaeological, educational and charitable. This vision translated into a meaning of the mandate as colonial protectorate, integrated into the French Empire. Initial French methods of organising and supervising cultural activity sought to embrace this vision and to implement it in the exploitation of antiquities, the management and promotion of cultural heritage, the organisation of education and control of the public opinion among literate classes. However, in-depth examination of the first five years of the League of Nations-assigned mandate reveals that French expectations of a protectorate were quickly dashed by consistent and widespread contestation of their mandatary methods within cultural institutions, not simply among Arabists but so too among minority groups initially expected to be loyal clients. The violence of imposing the mandate de facto, starting with a landing of French troops in the Lebanese and Syrian Mediterranean coast in 1919 and followed by extension to Syria “proper” in 1920 was followed by consistent violent revolt and rejection of the very idea of a mandate over local peoples. Examining the cultural institutions’ role reveals less violent yet similarly consistent contestation of French meanings ascribed to the mandate by challenging their methods of executing it. Tracing the mandate administrators’ and surveillance and diplomatic apparatus’ point of view, this analysis shows the significant pressure put on French expectations through contestation of such policies as the exportation of antiquities, the expansion of French instruction over Arabic learning, the censorship of the press. This did not quite unite the infamously tapestry-like stakeholders within and without Syria on a nationalist or even anti-imperialist framework. Yet there was a unity in contesting mandatary methods precieved to be transforming the meaning of a League of Nations mandate. The political and de jure discourses emerging after the tragedy of World War I fostered expectations of European tutelages that prepared local peoples for autonomy and independence. Yet, even among the most Francophile of stakeholders, the unfolding of the first years of mandate rule brought forth de facto, entirely different events and methods. In conjunction with the ongoing violent refusal to accept even the premise of a French mandate, this contestation, partly occurring through cultural institutions, contributed to a fundamental reduction of French expectations in the formative five years. An in-depth horizontal and synchronic analysis of the shifts in discourses, attitudes and activities unfolding in French and locally-organised cultural institutions such as schools, museums and newspapers thus signals the need for mandate studies to give greater consideration to shifts in international and local meanings, methods and capacities rather than treating it as a single unit of analysis.
Supervisor: Thomas, Martin C. ; Curless, Gareth C. M. Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Syria ; Lebanon ; France ; Empire ; Imperialism ; Colonialism ; Middle East ; Nationalism ; Anti-Colonialism ; Culture ; Arab World ; Near East ; Levant