Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols by Lisa Wedeen

By Lisa Wedeen

In Syria, a twin of President Hafiz al-Asad is in every single 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 reliable rhetoric, don't think its claims. Why may 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 electorate act as if they respected their chief. via inundating lifestyle with drained symbolism, the regime workouts a refined, but potent kind of strength. The cult works to implement obedience, result in complicity, isolate Syrians from each other, and set guidance for public speech and behaviour. Wedeen's ethnographic learn demonstrates how Syrians realize the disciplinary features of the cult and search to undermine them. Provocative and unique, Ambiguities of Domination is an important contribution to comparative politics, political conception, and cultural studies.

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Extra info for Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria

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Ambitious businessmen pepper bids on enticing state contracts with "cultspeak" or by invoking Asad or his sons' names in their project proposals. On at least one occasion, even political prisoners were reportedly compelled to sign loyalty oaths before they could be released. 2 IF" M's story dramatizes experiences such as these, which citizens have both as participants in and as daily consumers of Asad's cult. In this heightened version of a routine encounter, the soldiers enact a politics of "as if" by pretending that they dreamed of Asad's omnipotence.

Whether dreams are regarded as divinely inspired messages conveyed to selected ordinary humans or, in common post-Freudian terms, as unconscious, personal expressions of wishes and anxieties that find no outlet in daily life, dreams are suggestive of the private parts of ourselves. 71 72 CHAPTER THREE The officer's demand signals that actual dreams may remain private, but the soldiers' public claims must conform to the official national narrative. , to act as if they have no untoward anxieties and their deepest wishes are consonant with those idealized by the state.

Blood also invokes blood relations. Muhaydli's spilled blood, like the blood oaths among members of the "popular" organizations, incorporates her into the national family and makes her the daughter of Asad, the nation's father. Furthermore, Muhaydli's example suggests the power of blood as a symbol of national commitment and enduring connection, operating to prove loyalty real. The bodies of martyrs substantiate allegiance by providing concrete, specific examples of national dedication, echoed in the contracts signed in blood.

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