By Lisa Wedeen
In Syria, a twin of President Hafiz al-Asad is all over the 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 so much Syrians, together with those that create the respectable 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 gadget, producing a politics of public dissimulation during which voters act as if they respected their chief. by way of inundating lifestyle with drained symbolism, the regime workouts a sophisticated, but powerful kind of strength. 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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Additional resources for Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria
His self-announced voyeurism suggests his awareness of his own complicity. M also registers his complicity in the regime's contamination and in his victimization when he speaks of his mother as the prostitute: Syria's corruption directly affects and pains him. M represents his condition as that of the son of a whore, as the product of the prostituting nation. As the son of the mother-nation, Mean ACTING "As IF" never be certain that he himself is not, like his metaphorical siblings, a bastard. One interpretation of M's story suggests, therefore, the simultaneous sacrifice of identity (M as bastard) and reidentification with the soldiers (they are all bastards) that his position entails.
46 Fathers tend to expect obedience and are expected to ensure the family's material well-beingY Asad's role as national patriarch positions him symbolically as the dominant figure in a hierarchical national community; citizen-children owe him their obedience. But the invocation of Asad in this role as national father also implies his responsibility to provide for the material needs of Syrian citizen-children. Insofar as Asad personifies state institutions designed to provide goods and services in return for obedience and allegiance, the metaphor of the father operates to underscore that Asad is like the family patriarch: similar to but bigger, better, and more powerful than one's own father.
Official rhetoric attributes difficulties and conflict to exogenous, divisive forces while crediting the regime with overcoming problems and disturbances. This symbolic system is matched, however, by an equally powerful invocation of kinship as the ground on which domestic political affairs should be conducted. The cult persistently invokes familial metaphors and produces iconography of Asad's own kin. Obviously, Syrian ideologues are not alone in likening political relations to familial ones.