The Orient Institut Beirut is pleased to announce its participation in a 2023-5 Partenariat Hubert Curien-Cèdre Program, Fertile Liban through its Research Associate, Pierre France, core member of the team.
The Partenariat Hubert Curien (PHC)/Cèdre aims to develop, in a logic of incubator, scientific and technological exchanges of excellence between French and Lebanese laboratories, in particular by encouraging new cooperations, the participation of young researchers and PhD candidates as well as the creation of Franco-Lebanese research teams.
Fertile Liban gathers professors, postdocs and doctoral students from the Orient Institut Beirut, CNRS, Sciences Po Paris, Sorbonne University, AUB, USEK and CREAL, around the themes of agriculture and rural spaces in Lebanon, and will serve as the basis of new fieldworks, a regular seminar and a variety of events in the coming years at the OIB or in France. It prolongs a tradition for the study of these topics at the Orient Institut, which in a recent past hosted the discussion group "Rural History, Lebanon and Beyond" (led by Astrid Meier).
Recent studies in and on Lebanon tend to focus on Beirut and urban development in general and not much on rurality and agriculture, in contrast with a primarily historical and anthropological perspective of the 1950-70s - notably through the history of silk or traditional political dominance in rural areas. Whereas this type of focus was commonplace, the study has been discontinued ever since, and peasants (as in another industrial domain, the workers) seem to have disappeared with the rise of a new economy revolving around bankers, traders, real estate and speculation rather than production, and overall in the development of an urban Lebanon.
The country is more readily associated with the urbanity of its coastline and the cities that dot it, the phenomena of urbanization or the encroachment on natural areas (quarries, landfills, maritime encroachments, etc.) than with its agricultural and rural areas. This distant past is left to distant fantasies and aesthetic representations (of which the cedar, however rare in the territory, could be the main symbol), or to distant cyphers, at the risk of forgetting the populations of these territories whose practices as well as discourses are notoriously understudied. As such, the study of villages, agriculture, and this daily life 'outside Beirut' has disappeared year after year.
Moreover, the episodes of rural exodus that have marked Lebanese history have mainly been studied from the coast and the cities, i.e. the points of arrival, neglecting the countryside and the mountains again, just as the phenomena of 'counter-exodus' of the 1990s and then post-2005 have also been little documented. Taking stock of the urgency to resume the study of these objects, this project also proposes a synthesis of existing work, and the outline of future research at a time several phenomena came to be under scrutiny: a possible new phase of 'return to the village'; the redevelopment of agricultural practices following the crisis of 2019; or the surprise felt at the spectacle of recent social mobilizations that turn out to be neither only centred on Beirut nor only urban.
Drawing on agricultural sciences, history, (political) sociology, anthropology, rural studies, and through various fieldworks, Fertile Liban tackles this situation through three main topics, "Agricultural practices and economic practices in rural areas", "Social and Political Mobilizations in the rural world", "Governing rurality and agriculture". It also embraces a specific and constant interest in methodology and research practices at the intersection of several disciplines, challenging a situation until now partly characterized by the succession of short-term and intermittent development projects, producing grey literature through which confidentiality and fragmentation of the data collected has reigned.