Jade Lansing


This research project will explore the ways the Lebanese state and individual classroom actors construct and contest citizenship through the curriculum and structure of civics classrooms in contemporary Lebanese primary schools. Using civics classrooms as a lens to understand broader trends in educational environments, this study will analyze the role of education in the narration, diffusion, and aggravation of social and political discord. It argues that schools and classrooms are not passive or neutral mirrors of external dynamics, but rather play an active role in the narration and construction of these realities. This research shows that education is a space dominated by conflicting interests, serving as both a source of control and individual empowerment. It is the great irony of citizenship that, the state apparatus, and the sectarian demarcations it reiterates in Lebanon, are reinforced by the very initiatives that seek to challenge these hegemonic and hierarchical structures by nature of their reliance on the state and sectarian affiliations as sources of change. This project aims to address this contradiction within the practice of civics education in Lebanese primary schools. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Beiruti primary school classrooms as well as review of national legislation and educational administrative documents, this interdisciplinary study explores the relationship between national administrative reforms and everyday classroom practices. This analysis is situated within a broader interrogation of what civics classrooms teach young students about their rights and duties as Lebanese citizens, and how the content and implementation of civics education differs between schools. In addition to interviews and reviewing textbooks and educational administrative documents, I attended civics classes at three Beiruti elementary schools in order to observe grading methodology, group project dynamics, teaching styles, and students’ classroom engagement to understand how students become citizens within the school environment.


Middle East Studies Center

Degree Name

MA in Middle East Studies

Graduation Date


Submission Date

October 2014

First Advisor

Khayyat, Munira

Committee Member 1

Sayed, Hani

Committee Member 2

Zaalouk, Malak


145 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Citizenship -- Lebanon -- Beirut.

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

tiol characteristics, Lebanese.


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item


It goes without saying that this project could not have happened without the generous support and wisdom of many, many people. I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Sherene Seikaly and Ms. Radwa Wassim, who consistently go beyond the call of duty to ensure that AUC’s Middle East Studies students thrive both persolly and professiolly. I am thankful for the guidance of my thesis committee — Dr. Munira Khayyat, Dr. Malak Zaalouk, and Dr. Hani Sayed — for taking the time to be a part of this project. I should also thank the American University in Cairo for the grant that helped fund my field research, as well as the American University of Beirut and the United tions Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, who hosted me while I conducted research in Lebanon. I am grateful for the many open arms and ahlan wa sahlan’s I encountered during the duration of this research. I am eterlly indebted to Maysa Mourad and Dr. Bassel Akar for their extensive guidance and support throughout the project, and particularly in gaining access to schools. I would also like to thank Dr. Nemer Frayha, Dr. Tamer Amin, Dr. Maha Shuayb, Dr. Anies Al-Hroub, and Dr. Mahmoud tout, who graciously offered insight and resources. At its best, scholarship is a dialogue, and I benefited enormously from these scholars’ contributions and experience. I owe a great deal of appreciation to my peer-editing group — Owain, Cally, Claire, Kristen — without whose careful line-edits, feedback, and solidarity this study would likely be much less polished, and its writer much less sane. Filly, I would like to thank the students, teachers, and school administrators whose stories gave this study life. I am forever astounded by the brilliance and color of young minds. I hope this study will do justice to their voices. Any failings in this regard are my own.