Sectarianism and the Ambiguities of Welfare in Lebanon

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Sectarianism and the Ambiguities of Welfare in Lebanon

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Title: Sectarianism and the Ambiguities of Welfare in Lebanon
Author: Cammett, Melani Claire
Citation: Cammett, Melani. 2015. “Sectarianism and the Ambiguities of Welfare in Lebanon.” Current Anthropology 56 (S11) (October): S76–S87. doi:10.1086/682391.
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Abstract: Nonstate providers are often more important in the everyday lives of the poor than outposts of the state. In this essay, I focus on one type of provider, sectarian organizations, which are an integral component of politics and welfare regimes in parts of the Middle East and other developing regions. Focusing on Lebanon, I describe how sectarian welfare providers emerge from and help to constitute political sectarianism while tracing what is at stake for the poor. First, by holding public offices and dominating informal channels that mediate access to public benefits, these actors mediate the experience of accessing the “rights” of citizenship. Second, while they provide benefits and services that might not otherwise be available, the modes of allocating welfare by sectarian parties can be discriminatory, notably along partisan and religious lines. Third, sectarian groups politicize the process of accessing social benefits while undercutting the political voice of the poor by weakening alternative channels of claim making. Finally, the crosscutting effects of sectarian organizations in welfare regimes suggest additional challenges to boosting local participation in development policy: while they are deeply embedded in the communities they serve, they produce and reinforce social inequalities.
Published Version: doi:10.1086/682391
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