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Session R4790 (Competing Discourses of Masculinity in the Arab World), 2017
In this roundtable I offer insights into the ways that historical engagement with masculinity studies can intervene in the historiography of late Ottoman Lebanon. One of the challenges of identifying historical discourses of masculinity is partly the lack of sources, but also the absence of explicit reference to “masculinity” in historical texts, such as the contemporary use of the word "dhukurah." I propose a methodological approach to counter these challenges, which includes a reading of material history alongside textual analysis to tease out discourses on manhood. I discuss how visual signs and symbols found in material culture, like clothing and the bestowment of awards, can be analyzed in conjunction with ideas of manliness found in textual sources, including the use of adjectives, such as "mutamaddin," nouns such as "rujulah," and titles, such as "mu’allim." In employing this method in my work, I have been able to trace a transition from “imperial masculinity,” powerful in the nineteenth century, and based on proving one’s legitimacy through imperial constructs of gender, to an emerging idea of the modern man of the early twentieth century, based on new ideas of legitimacy, dignity and pride.

I discuss the ways such analysis impacts dominant historiographical narratives of turn of the century Beirut. Ottoman Imperial manhood was received and negotiated in Beirut, where it was reformulated into nationalized, modern concept of manhood. However, this negotiation blurs the lines between a straightforward transition from Ottomanism and Arab nationalism, by exposing an intersection between men of differing ages, races and religions. The result is, I argue, that notions of masculinity connected Ottoman subjects in ways that are not usually exposed in the dominant, sectarian based history of modern Lebanon. It provides evidence of a fluidity and negotiation between the ideological divisions of Ottomanism, Arab nationalism and other regional nationalisms, which are so prevalent in the historiography of Ottoman Lebanon.