Policy in Practice: Subverting the Colonial and the National in Lebanese Girls' Schools during the French Mandate

By Johanna Peterson
Submitted to Session P4994 (Schooling the Nation: the Politics of Education in Historical Perspective, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries; Colonialism; Education; Gender/Women's Studies; Middle East/Near East Studies; Nationalism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
During the French mandate in Lebanon (ca. 1919-1946), the French Public Instruction Service, and later the Lebanese Ministry of Education, instituted various requirements for the opening of schools in the areas under French occupation. In its examination of the education and educational institutions in French mandate Lebanon, this paper puts these administrative requirements in conversation with the applications submitted by those girls’ schools requesting authorization to operate. Using official correspondence, announcements, and bulletins, application documents (these include letters of intent and support, academic programs and curricula, lists of textbooks, professional and educational credentials of the proposed teachers and directors, and school building floorplans), and press sources, this paper uses official, archival documents to show that educational institutions, operating within the confines of official and administrative requirements, negotiated the colonialist aims of the French mandate and the national aims of the nascent Lebanese government for their own purposes. Such an analysis, in making use of traditional political archival documents in ways that are “against the grain,” illuminates the ways in which both colonial and national power were subverted, challenged, or propped up within official, administrative confines by local institutions. More specifically, by examining documents from girls’ schools, this paper gets at the ways women and girls responded to both colonial and national expectations not only for curricular content, textbook usage, and the like, but also for women’s and girls’ role in the nascent Lebanese state. Ultimately, then, this study explores questions of the complex interplay among formal power, the various institutions that operate in colonial and national settings, anticolonialist and nationalist struggles, and gender.