Beirut Radical: A Global Microhistory from the Sixties to the Lebanese Civil War
Dylan Baun is a writer, historian of the Modern Middle East, and Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He received his PhD in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. His first book, Winning Lebanon: Youth Politics, Populism, and the Production of Sectarian Violence 1920-1958 (Cambridge University Press, 2021), is a history of youth organizations and parties across the French colonial and early independence eras. It was awarded the 2022 SERMEISS book prize. His current book project is a global microhistory of a Lebanese leftist from the Sixties to the Lebanese Civil War.
Imad Nuwayhid (1944-1975) was a student, leftist intellectual in the making, traveler, activist, hotel employee, and a “martyr.” His death—the point at which Imad became known beyond those closest to him—occurred during the earliest phase of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) when he was killed as a fighter for the Lebanese Communist Party. With Imad as the guide, Beirut Radical is a global microhistory—a window into this era of radical youth politics, the war that many young people like him participated in, as well as how the war and its young combatants are remembered today. Through Imad’s writings, personal documents, communist party sources, and interviews with his comrades, family, and friends, I argue that his beliefs and actions, crystalized over the course of two tumultuous decades of the Cold War, signal a generation of what I term “practical radicals.” While much more is known about their politics and support for left wing ideologies, Imad demonstrates how they pursued them, equally, alongside their career aspirations. Furthermore, the story that follows Imad’s death, demonstrates how multiple actors in Lebanon’s war, some in concert (party and family members), some in resistance (some family), claim individuals, and their memory, as the foundation for their competing meaning making projects. After presenting the project’s background and general arguments, this talk will focus on a particular chapter of his life: when he worked in West Germany at a hotel, a migrant working coming of age abroad in the specter of the 1967 War.