The “National” Pact and Its Construction of Minorities in Lebanon

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:20 AM
Scottsdale Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Tsolin Nalbantian, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
As the French government was negotiating its withdrawal from Lebanon, members of the Lebanese nationalist opposition were forming the National Pact, which assigned specific positions of political power to different religious and ethnic sects. This pact, which was ratified by the Lebanese parliament in 1943, formally organized the population of the Lebanese nation-state by state-defined ethnic and religious categories. While the agreement was considered to be a Lebanese nationalist platform against the French government by its authors, it codified religious and ethnic affiliations as political identifications. While the National Pact ensured the representation of Sunni, Shi’i, Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Druze (among others) in the Lebanese government, it also simultaneously constructed these populations as “minorities,” leading to the politicization of minority identities in Lebanon.

This paper will analyze the relationship between the formation of the National Pact in 1943 and the development of Armenian and Druze “minority” identities in Lebanon. Focusing on the Armenian and Arabic press of the time period, it will consider if the National Pact, which was upheld as a “national” and “unified” compromise was also an arrangement that ensured the self-identification of segments of the Lebanese population as minorities, which, in turn defined themselves in relation to “majority” populations with an apparent monopoly on state power. In this examination of the relationship between minority and majority groups, this paper will move beyond writing the “minority” into the historical narrative of the Lebanese nation-state, and begin exploring the relationship between the idealized categories “minority” and “majority.”