Institute for Migration Studies publishes study of Lebanese Down Under
The institute hosts a book launch for a pathbreaking new study of Australia’s longstanding Lebanese community.
LAU’s Institute for Migration Studies hosted a book launch on April 8 to mark the publication of On Being Lebanese in Australia: Identity, Racism and the Ethnic Field, co-authored by Dr. Paul Tabar, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at LAU Beirut and current director of IMS.
A panel of scholars discussed the book in the Irwin Hall Faculty Lounge, where copies of it were made available for purchase.
In addition to Tabar, the discussants included Dr. Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss, assistant professor of political science and international affairs at LAU Beirut; Dr. Melhem Chaoul, professor of sociology and acting director of the Research Center at the Institute of Social Sciences at Lebanese University; and Dr. Ray Jureidini, associate professor of sociology at LAU Beirut. Skulte-Ouaiss and Jureidini are colleagues of Tabar’s at IMS.
“This book is about the impact of immigration and settlement on the culture of Lebanese migrants and their descendants in Australia,” said Tabar in his opening remarks to the audience.
The book touches on topics such as racism, “ethnic capital,” and the shift from state policies emphasizing assimilation toward those privileging multiculturalism.
Co-authored with Dr. Greg Noble of the University of Western Sidney and Dr. Scott Poynting of Manchester Metropolitan University, On Being Lebanese in Australia is the result of years of collaborative research.
The research conducted included extensive interviews, participant observation and personal reflections. Individual chapters analyze everything from second-generation immigrant vernaculars to youth sexuality to the politics of football fandom to the symbolic re-appropriation of dabke and Ashura rituals.
Jureidini praised the book for its mixture of “theoretical sophistication and descriptive vividness,” and for its “insistence on avoiding or challenging simplistic stereotypes.”
He also spoke feelingly in his prepared remarks about his own experiences of racism and xenophobia, and the “disquieting” emotional impact the book had on him.
“As someone who grew up in Australia as a Lebanese immigrant, so many things in this book that hit home, quite deeply,” Jureidini said. “I think it’s a great book, and to anyone with an inkling of the events described and analyzed here, it will ring all too true. I can’t do justice to its depth and intensity.”
Tabar said that in their analysis of immigrant identity, he and his co-authors aimed to avoid the “classical dichotomy between agency and structure,” between, that is, a sociological approach foregrounding the independence of individuals and one foregrounding societal and systemic pressures.
Conceptual frameworks derived from the writings of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu helped them in this task, Tabar said.
Jureidini said the book’s treatment of identity was “the most sophisticated — and necessarily complex — that I’ve come across so far.”
Tabar spoke of his plans to continue collaborating with Noble on related academic projects.
The event drew a large and fairly diverse audience, including not only fellow LAU faculty but also deans, graduate students, undergrads, professors from the American University of Beirut, and even Lebanese and Australian diplomats.
On Being Lebanese in Australia is one of several publications IMS has made possible in the prolific four years since its founding.