By Lisa Wedeen
In Syria, a dead ringer for President Hafiz al-Asad is all over. In newspapers, on tv, and through orchestrated spectacles Asad is praised because the "father," the "gallant knight," even the country's "premier pharmacist." but so much Syrians, together with those that create the professional rhetoric, don't believe its claims. Why may a regime spend scarce assets on a cult whose content material is patently spurious?
Wedeen concludes that Asad's cult acts as a disciplinary gadget, producing a politics of public dissimulation during which voters act as if they respected their chief. via inundating way of life with drained symbolism, the regime routines a sophisticated, but powerful type of energy. The cult works to implement obedience, result in complicity, isolate Syrians from each other, and set directions for public speech and behaviour. Wedeen's ethnographic examine demonstrates how Syrians realize the disciplinary features of the cult and search to undermine them. Provocative and unique, Ambiguities of Domination is an important contribution to comparative politics, political thought, and cultural studies.
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Extra resources for Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria
Al- 'Attar hints that people are disturbed by Asad's lack of emotion, and reasons that his responsibil- KILLING POLITICS ity as a leader means he cannot afford to break down and mourn his mother. "78 The poem nevertheless invites Asad to mourn while at the same time offering him the condolences of Syria's mothers. The son's personal, concealed grieving is converted into the public, general pain of the community. And when you return to your birth place tomorrow or after tomorrow, alas, your mother will not be waiting for you with open arms as she did when you were a baby and young man and a mature man and a leader.
In contemporary Syria, kinship remains a central organizing institution. In material terms, kinship connections function to mobilize people and resources, while on the symbolic level, kinship conjures up intimate connections, the primacy of male authority, and the unequal reciprocal relations between adults and children. g. "Mother [or Father] of Basil"), while senior members of the family address younger members as extensions of themselves. 52 Uncles, aunts, and grandparents similarly refer to their nieces, nephews, and grandchildren as 'ammi (my paternal uncle) khali (my maternal uncle), 'amti (my paternal aunt), khalti (my maternal aunt), jiddi (my grandfather), and sitti (my grandmother).
The senior officer, as son of the corrupt nation and as representative of political power, may thus also be illegitimate. This reading suggests that the officer compounds his illegitimacy by being incestuous, by preying on and debauching his own country. In the story, M's act induces his partial separation from his fellow soldiers, his metaphorical siblings, at the same time it aggressively exposes their pretense. The other soldiers (and the officer) are also "whores" who "sell" their integrity for security or gain; M exposes the charade and names it.
Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria by Lisa Wedeen