Prof. Elie Podeh
Rulers and elites have invented rituals and commemorations in order to serve their interests: legitimize their hegemony as well as maintain the existing social and political order. This process is more salient in the new modern states, which are in search of national identity and collective memory.
This study concentrates on one aspect of commemoration - the role of commemorative observances in the Arab Middle East. The fact that most Arab states were formed after World War I means that their rulers have been engaged in this process of nation and state building, of which commemorative observances play an important role. Such celebrations serve as a secular ritual, which resembles to some extent the role of religious rituals in primitive societies. In recent years, a growing body of research has dealt with the ways in which ruling elites have "imagined" or commemorated their states and nations. Inexplicably, however, the Middle East region has largely been omitted from this literature, though the "artificial" Arab states would appear to be excellent case studies for research on the "politics of commemoration”. The present study will explore this phenomenon in several typical regimes: Egypt, Syria and Iraq (Presidential Republics); Jordan and Saudi Arabia (Monarchies); and Lebanon (a multi-cultural state based on a confessional system).