Mouvements communautaires et Espaces urbains au Machreq (Beirut: Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur le Moyen-Orient Contemporain, 1985).
One of the tragic ironies of the protracted Lebanese crisis is the fate of CERMOC and of Michel Seurat, one of the authors represented in this volume. Suerat was kidnapped in May 1985, and the Islamic Jihad group announced in early March that they had executed him as “an enemy of God.” CERMOC, located directly on the Green Line near Beirut’s Museum Crossing, has been unable to function for the last year. Both Seurat and CERMOC are victims of the social crisis which they sought to understand and relate in this important book.
Mouvements communautaires represents CERMOC’s effort — despite very difficult conditions — to provide incisive analysis of diverse aspects of social and economic development in the modern Middle East. Since the focus of this publication is the urban centers of Lebanon, it is an important work for anyone interested in the sectarian movements and the crisis in that country since the 1970s.
The five essays in this anthology focus on the growing urban crisis (exacerbated by the population explosion, urban migration and inadequate state infrastructure) and the expanding influence of sectarian movements in the city, using modern Cairo, Beirut and Tripoli, eighteenth-century Aleppo, and Casablanca as examples.
Mona Zakaria’s “Duwaka, une projection excentree de la ville ancienne du Caire” is based on her observations of the state’s urban redevelopment project in one quarter of Cairo's old city. "Une mosquee de Beyrouth aujourd’hui: unite de la communaute et diversite" by Bachchar Chbarou and Waddah Charara looks at the communal complexities of one area of Beirut situated around the Msaytbeh mosque. Michel Seurat’s “Le quartier de Bab Tebbane a Tripoli (Liban): etude d’une asabiyya urbaine,” based on his field research in the popular quarter of Bab al-Tabbana in Tripoli in 1981, analyzes the role of urban ‘asabiyya (group loyalty) in the northern Lebanese city. He integrates a theoretical discussion, centering on the debate over the Islamic city, with his observations on the functioning and repercussions of communal loyalty in Tripoli, lending insight into the dynamics that have contributed to more than two years of battles in Tripoli between the Sunni Islamic Unification Movement and the Arabian Knights. Salim Nasr's illuminating essay, “La transition des chiites vers Beyrouth: mutations sociales et mobilisation communitaire a la veille de 1975,” which looks at the great social and political changes that have taken place within the Shi‘i community since Lebanese independence, appeared in MERIP Reports 133 (June 1985). In “Decentralisation ottomane et affirmation urbaine a Alep a la fin du XVIIIeme siecle,” Jean-Pierre Thieck examines the role of the city, using Aleppo as a case study, during a period of Ottoman decentralization during the late eighteenth century. Finally, Guy Leonard’s “Courrier par-dessus Casablanca,” written as correspondence between a father residing in Angers (France) and his son in Casablanca, gives us a brief look at symptoms of social crisis in a city in the Maghreb.