Rethinking Cultural Policies in Lebanon

Zaitunay Bay, Private Property

By Nadia von Maltzahn, Research Associate at the Orient-Institut Beirut and member of the Working Group on Cultural Policies in Lebanon

In Lebanon, the perception that there are no cultural policies is widespread. People’s first thought goes to the Ministry of Culture and its perceived lack of action in the field of culture. However, cultural policies do not only pertain to the work of ministries of culture, but rather are determined by a variety of actors and actions.

In this new article, entitled “What Cultural Policies?”, I apply the concept of explicit and implicit cultural policy to the case of Lebanon, and extend the terms so that the former does not only include cultural policies designated as such by the state, but also those created by civil society and other non-state actors, and that the latter does not only include political strategies, but also encompasses practices that in the end determine cultural policies. By looking at different ways to talk about cultural policies in Lebanon, I aim to show some of the power struggles between multiple actors involved in culture. Cultural frameworks are negotiated by a multitude of actors on the basis of both explicit and implicit policies, but also unwritten laws and practices.

In the study, three short case studies highlight different aspects of what determines cultural policies in practice. The first gives the example of the Lebanese National Library under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. The second focuses on two projects connected to Beirut Municipality, Assabil municipal libraries and Beit Beirut. The third case deals with Solidere and its role in shaping cultural life in the capital’s city center. The study shows that the conditions created for culture implicitly, such as the liberal law of associations, are a crucial part of the country’s cultural policies, while some of the explicit policies – such as putting legislation in place – can be ineffective if practices are in reality determined by other imperatives.

Read the article “‘What Cultural Policies?’ Explicit and Implicit Cultural Policies in Lebanon”, published in January 2017 by the open access journal Middle East – Topics & Arguments, here:

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