Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon

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French rule in Syria and Lebanon coincided with the rise of colonial resistance around the world and with profound social trauma after World War I. In this tightly argued study, Elizabeth Thompson shows how Syrians and Lebanese mobilized, like other colonized peoples, to claim the terms of citizenship enjoyed in the European metropole. The negotiations between the French and citizens of the Mandate set the terms of politics for decades after Syria and Lebanon achieved independence in 1946.

Colonial Citizens highlights gender as a central battlefield upon which the relative rights and obligations of states and citizens were established. The participants in this struggle included not only elite nationalists and French rulers, but also new mass movements of women, workers, youth, and Islamic populists. The author examines the "gendered battles" fought over France's paternalistic policies in health, education, labor, and the press. Two important and enduring political structures issued from these conflicts:

• First, a colonial welfare state emerged by World War II that recognized social rights of citizens to health, education, and labor protection.

• Second, tacit gender pacts were forged first by the French and then reaffirmed by the nationalist rulers of the independent states. These gender pacts represented a compromise among male political rivals, who agreed to exclude and marginalize female citizens in public life.

This study provides a major contribution to the social construction of gender in nationalist and postcolonial discourse. Returning workers, low-ranking religious figures, and most of all, women to the narrative history of the region--figures usually omitted-- Colonial Citizens enhances our understanding of the interwar period in the Middle East, providing needed context for a better understanding of statebuilding, nationalism, Islam, and gender since World War II.

Columbia University Press

2000 First Book Prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians; Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women's History, Organization of American Historians

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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review - Margaret L. Meriwether

This book deserves to be widely read. One of the most significant contributions to the historiography of modern Syria and Lebanon in recent years.

American Historical Review
This book deserves to be widely read. One of the most significant contributions to the historiography of modern Syria and Lebanon in recent years.

— Margaret L. Meriwether

Beth Baron
Thompson introduces a new set of conceptual tools for understanding the history of Syria and Lebanon. Looking through the lens of gender and weaving together the stories of marginalized groups, she recasts events of the world wars and interwar years in an innovative framework. Colonial Citizens forces a rethinking of colonialism and citizenship in the Middle East and elsewhere. Beautifully written, artfully argued, gender history at its best.
Roger Owen
A landmark history of the making of the modern Syrian and Lebanese civic order.
Philip S. Khoury
Elizabeth Thompson has produced the most original and exciting study on the relationship of gender to politics and culture in the Middle East in the first half of the twentieth century. Historians of Syria and Lebanon and of the French Empire will find much new to feast upon. Others interested in the ways citizenship and democracy are understood in today´s Arab world will be grateful to Thompson for revealing their early manifestations in the Levant. I highly recommend this book.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Thompson is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

I. WAR AND THE ADVENT OF FRENCH RULE: A CRISIS OF PATERNITY1. World War I: Famine, Memory, and a Shattered Social Order2. Soldiers and Patriarchs: Pillars of Colonial Paternalism3. Bureaucrats: Mother France's Civilizing MissionII. PATERNAL REPUBLICANISM AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF SUBALTERN CITIZENS4. State Social Policy: Constructing a Hierarchy of Citizens5. Revolt: The Rise of Subaltern MovementsIII. GENDER AND THE LEGAL BOUNDARIES OF THE COLONIAL CIVIC ORDER6. Political Rights: Women's Suffrage as a Revolutionary Threat7. The Veil and the Dual Legal System8. Civil Rights: Patriotic Motherhood and Religious Law Reform9. Social Rights: Emergence of a Colonial Welfare StateIV. GENDERING THE PUBLIC: SPATIAL BOUNDARIES OF THE COLONIAL CIVIC ORDER10. Remapping the Urban Landscape11. Street Violence: Regendering an Old Urban Space12. Cinemas: Gendering a New Urban Space13. The Press: Gendering the Virtual PublicV. WORLD WAR II AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COLONIAL CIVIC ORDER14. Climax of the Colonial Welfare State15. Claiming Paternity of Independent Republics16. The Making of Postcolonial Citizens

Columbia University Press

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