Spectral Museums and Ephemeral Exhibitions in Postwar Beirut

Authors: Miranda Meyer*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Middle East, Tourism Geography
Keywords: hauntology, Lebanon, tourism, heritage, memory, civil conflict
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


After Lebanon's 1975-1990 Civil War, the reconstruction authority Solidère promised two attractions that would respond to the conflict by exhibiting and celebrating the city's long history of ethnic and religious coexistence, while appealing to international tourism: The City History Museum and the Garden of Forgiveness. Though these institutions were never built, their plans and possibilities have persisted for decades as ghosts of reconciliation, promoted in Solidère publications as late as 2012 and available online up to today. The paper examines this spectral persistence through the framework of Derrida’s hauntology (1994). The haunting absence of these two would-be institutions has been punctuated with temporary conversions of public spaces into ephemeral exhibitions of conflict and reconstruction. Blurring the lines between art, propaganda, and rebuilding itself, these spectral and ephemeral sites of cultural tourism reveal a hauntology of post-conflict memory. They flicker in and out of view as Lebanon approaches and retreats from an accounting of its Civil War; the projects are neither laid to rest nor allowed to come into being. In this, they represent Lebanese reconciliation’s “future to-come itself” (1994, 19). While local interest in these institutions varies, their very spectrality attracts outsiders drawn to the prospect of witnessing haunting in action, or assisting in its laying to rest. Thus, after elaborating these sites’ role in Lebanon’s post-conflict hauntology, the paper closes by considering how the they fit into Lebanon’s landscape of historical, cultural, and “dark” tourism.

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