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Michel Aoun, ‘Patriarch of the Christian Street’

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Leadership, Affect, and the Politics of Communalization in Lebanon

image of Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

Designating himself as ‘Patriarch of the Christian street’, Michel Aoun has become the main character of a social narration. A network of partisan media institutions orchestrates the circulation of the leader’s image. These productions operate in a fragmented media environment in which each complex primarily targets a specific and already sensitized population. These publics, for which the transmission of family memory has often worked as a prerequisite, in turn spread a specific interpretation of Lebanese reality. Such modes of representation, both vertical (inspired by the partisan institutions) and horizontal (relying on peer-to-peer circulation) frame Aoun’s image in reference to a triple aesthetics deliberately emphasizing affects: a patriarchal family trope revealing a sense of fusion, a heroic picture stirring inspiration, and a prophet’s metaphor fostering communion within the group. As a consequence, the group of followers is produced primarily as affective, in opposition to alternative negative figures. In that respect, the study of the representations of a figure like Michel Aoun enables us to investigate the contemporary configurations in which collectives are produced in Lebanon and thus to re-examine the very nature of politics in this segmented polity.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tampere


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