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Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syriaby Lisa Wedeen
Synopses & Reviews
In Syria, the image of President Hafiz al-Asad is everywhere. In newspapers, on television, and during orchestrated spectacles Asad is praised as the "father," the "gallant knight," even the country's "premier pharmacist." Yet most Syrians, including those who create the official rhetoric, do not believe its claims. Why would a regime spend scarce resources on a cult whose content is patently spurious?
Wedeen concludes that Asad's cult acts as a disciplinary device, generating a politics of public dissimulation in which citizens act as if they revered their leader. By inundating daily life with tired symbolism, the regime exercises a subtle, yet effective form of power. The cult works to enforce obedience, induce complicity, isolate Syrians from one another, and set guidelines for public speech and behavior. Wedeen's ethnographic research demonstrates how Syrians recognize the disciplinary aspects of the cult and seek to undermine them. Provocative and original, Ambiguities of Domination is a significant contribution to comparative politics, political theory, and cultural studies.
Book News Annotation:
Syrian president Hafiz al-Asad is regularly depicted as omnipresent and omniscient, and the locus of attributions like "father," "combatant," "first teacher," "leader forever," "premier pharmacist," designations that Wedeen (political science, U. of Chicago) claims few Syrians believe, stating that Asad is, for example, seldom greeted by crowds when appearing in public. Wedeen claims that Asad's cult generates a politics of public dissimulation in which citizens only act as if they revere their leader, and shows how the cult enforces obedience, induces complicity, isolates Syrians from each other, and sets guidelines for public speech and behavior.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Lisa Wedeen is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago.
Table of Contents
A Note on Transliteration
1. Believing in Spectacles
2. Killing Politics: Official Rhetoric and Permissible Speech
3. Acting "As If": The Story of M
4. Signs of Transgression
5. Complicating Compliance
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History and Social Science » Middle East » Syria