Monday, November 11, 2019

Layers and hierarchies

While the past is always multi-layered and ambiguous, Lebanon, just like Israel, comes across as particularly steeped in conflicted history. From the French Mandate up to the present, I struggle to make sense of all the factions and confessional identities. At the Sursock museum yesterday, there was a room-sized installation called “the problems of metaphor” which sought to investigate the formation and breakdown of order, “be they bodily, linguistic, or political”.

In my newspaper, I read that there is talk about having a referendum on whether or not Lebanon should become a secular state. Harder to grasp are all those other legacies of domination; how both our passports are returned to me, how people speak past Ally as if she was not there, or, and this obviously bites deeper, how I take on the role of being the one who “knows” the way or “explains” things.

As we enter Romanian airspace, I am still somehow sorting all these impressions. When I close my eyes, I see the elderly women waving with Lebanese flags as they gather to protest, the smiling soldiers with their machine guns, and the Russian bodyguards waiting for their bosses to finish their Sunday family meals before being whisked away in black SUVs.

Tomorrow I will be in Linköping and talk about gallery walk seminars and after that I will take the night train back to Umeå. Once again, I find myself simply overwhelmed by how much one can actually experience over the course of a few short days. I am also grateful for the fact that Ally and I did not cancel our trip when the protests started but instead ventured into what, for us, was the unknown, but which now has become a place that I am already thinking of returning to.

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