By Lisa Wedeen
In Syria, a twin of President Hafiz al-Asad is in every single place. In newspapers, on tv, and through orchestrated spectacles Asad is praised because the "father," the "gallant knight," even the country's "premier pharmacist." but such a lot Syrians, together with those that create the authentic rhetoric, don't believe its claims. Why might a regime spend scarce assets on a cult whose content material is patently spurious?
Wedeen concludes that Asad's cult acts as a disciplinary machine, producing a politics of public dissimulation during which electorate act as if they respected their chief. via inundating lifestyle with drained symbolism, the regime workouts a refined, but potent type of energy. The cult works to implement obedience, set off complicity, isolate Syrians from each other, and set guidance for public speech and behaviour. Wedeen's ethnographic examine demonstrates how Syrians realize the disciplinary elements of the cult and search to undermine them. Provocative and unique, Ambiguities of Domination is an important contribution to comparative politics, political concept, and cultural studies.
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Extra resources for Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria
90 The death of the bride of the south ensures that she will, in fact, never undergo the ritual initiation of an actual bride: "The bride of the south who was married off to the entire homeland (alwatan) ... " 91 Or, "Sana' the virgin ... " 92 Her sacrificial marriage assures that the blood she spills, unlike the blood of the bride, remains pure. 93 Her pure blood ensures the community's honor and the nation's continuance: "From the bright blood of Sana' will emerge the explosion of freedom ...
Arsuzi suggests that the nation is the precondition for being, the place where one is nurtured. The nation as womb is the place where life begins. , innate, from birth, something one is born in or with, rather than acquires. A painting hanging at the entrance of Asad's mother's mausoleum (fig. 7) seems to retain these specifically maternal connotations of the pan-Arab nation (umma). Asad, the mature man dressed in a suit, is shown bowing down in homage to kiss the hand of his haloed mother, Na'isa.
Why promote a politics based on "as if" rather than a politics devoted to fostering loyalty or commanding belief? Slavoj Zizek's definition of obedience suggests a possible answer: "The only real obedience ... " 6 In Zizek's understanding, in other words, obedience differs from good judgment in that obedience requires a self-conscious submission to authority. Stephen Greenblatt argues similarly: "Power manifests itself in the ability to impose one's fictions upon the world .... " 7 Life is, of course, more complicated than the dichotomous choice Greenblatt offers.
Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria by Lisa Wedeen