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Abstract

More than any other Middle Eastern state, Lebanon represents an idea: that disparate peoples of differing religious and ethnic lineages, with histories of constant conflict, might democratically coexist in a single nation-state. Lebanon's unique parliamentary system of 'confessional politics'- split along Maronite Christian, Orthodox Christian, Sunni, Druze and Shia lines- seemed for much of the 20th century to achieve this ideal, if in an often-fragile fashion. Sadly, with the outbreak of civil war in 1975, this ultimately-misleading vision was drowned in an outpouring of inter-communal blood. To understand how this occur in a country that was once the diamond of the Mediterranean, we must comprehend how identity is constructed, and how it could be so disastrous in the Lebanese context. Lebanon's future itself depends on such an understanding.

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