Nation, Class, and Ecology in French Mandate Lebanon: AUB and 1930s Rural Development

59.    Peasants, Pesticides, and Politics in Greater Syria

The interwar period was an era of significant change in urban-rural relations throughout the world and witnessed an unprecedented use of technology in the agrarian and ecological spheres. Most notably, class specific urban movements posed as apolitical incorporated technocratic changes in the countryside as part of a nation-building project, place the romanticized peasantry as an object at the heart of these social transformations. In this episode, Sam Dolbee discusses one such movement based at the American University in Beirut during the 1930s, as middle class students and officials became involved in an ambiguous effort to transform the Lebanese-Syrian countryside in the shadow of French colonial rule.

Sam Dolbee is a PhD student in the department of Middle East Studies at New York University 
Chris Gratien is a PhD candidate studying the history of the modern Middle East at Georgetown University (see

Citation: "Nation, Class, and Ecology in French Mandate Lebanon: AUB and 1930s Rural Development." Samuel Dolbee and Chris Gratien. Ottoman History Podcast, No. 59 (July 7, 2012)

Select Bibliography

Anderson, Betty S. The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011.
El Shakry, Omnia. The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.
Firro, Kais. Inventing Lebanon: Nationalism and the State under the Mandate. London: Tauris, 2003.
Gasper, Michael. The Power of Representation: Publics, Peasants, and Islam in Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.
Mitchell, Timothy. Rule of Experts: Egypt, Technopolitics, Modernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
Nash, Linda. Inescapable Ecologies: A History of Environment, Disease, and Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

from Al-Qabas (Nov. 26, 1936)

The Village Revival Project
The Arab youth work to serve the peasants
The peasants are the crux of the nation (watan) and their welfare is the nation's welfare


efleischmann1 said…
Thank you for this great podcast. The discussion of class and gender particularly interests me. It's worth noting that women students from the American Junior College (not just AUB students, male and female) were also very involved in what they called "village welfare work" as early as 1930. The American Junior College for Women (who used Dodd's textbook) sent out students in the summer, often working with AUB students. They were involved in health clinics, literacy projects, and running schools for children, among other things. Women I interviewed engaged in this work for five summers. AJC was proud of its "pioneering" role in student work in villages. The college's principal wrote in 1938, "It is a matter of history that the Village Welfare project originally started in the Junior College. It was later taken up by the [American] University [of Beirut] and has now through the University become a national undertaking." Whether or not this is true I haven't been able to ascertain. (Ellen Fleischmann, University of Dayton)

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