Constructing and Negotiating the Islamic Milieu: New Moralities and Spatialities in Shi‘i Lebanon

Collaborative Group

Professor Lara Deeb, Professor Mona Harb


Architecture and Design


This project explores the relationship of the Shi‘i Islamic milieu in Lebanon to notions of “culture,” appropriate leisure, and spatial production. It asks how do various select sites—an ecotourism facility, a series of ‘family-oriented” amusement parks, and cafes and restaurants in Beirut—map onto spaces in Lebanon and how do different groups inhabit and/or appropriate these spaces? Who is involved in producing and experiencing these spaces and what notions of “culture,” appropriate leisure and spatiality do they deploy, redefine, and challenge? What is the relationship of the growing Islamic milieu and its leisure sector to the consumption practices of the emergent Shi‘i middle-class? In answering these questions, this project, and the resulting co-authored book and articles, will contribute to scholarship on Islamic movements, urban space, leisure, and consumption, as well as scholarship on Islam and Lebanon.

Both Lara Deeb and Mona Harb have published extensively on the Shi‘i Lebanese community and especially on the southern suburbs of Beirut. They bring to this project different research networks, methodological and theoretical approaches, and groundings in bodies of scholarship (English, French and Arabic). As a cultural anthropologist, Deeb’s work has taken an ethnographic approach, and has been theoretically grounded in literatures on modernity, gender, and public spheres in relation to Islam. As a political geographer, Harb’s work has analyzed qualitatively the role of political and religious organizations in local urban governance and service delivery, bringing together urban sociology and politics with theories of social mobilization, public action and political legitimization. The field research phase of the collaboration was supported by a Wenner-Gren International Collaboration Research Grant (1/2008-6-2009).

Award period: September 1, 2009 – July 1, 2011