Invisible victims? : how we talk about forcibly disappeared persons and their families. A case study from Lebanon.

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Steinbichler, Rebecca
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The present thesis examines the portrayal of enforced disappearance in the public discourse through the case study of Lebanon, where an estimated 17.000 individuals have remained missing since the 1975-1990 Civil War. After decades of advocacy work, a milestone has been reached by the establishment of a national commission with the mandate to investigate the fate of the disappeared. Currently, this process is being stalled by the political stakeholders, which is why continuing civil society pressure is crucial. As an added problem, however, the discourse has not been picked up by the Lebanese society beyond the inner circle of activists. Therefore, this study investigates how the demands of the victims’ families have been framed so far. Two qualitative research methods are applied: First, eight published communication materials from different producers are discussed via content analysis. Second, four interviews with civil society actors provide an insight on how and why certain narratives and frameworks have been created. The results show specific social and political circumstances in Lebanon spawned an intentional strategy of depoliticising the issue and framing it as a humanitarian cause. This has been achieved with one dominant narrative surrounding emotion, motherhood, waiting, suffering, passivity and weakness. The thesis also illustrates the need for a critical reflection of alternative approaches in order to create a national discourse and further the cause of Lebanon’s disappeared.
Second semester University: Ca' Foscari University of Venice
disappeared persons, victims, Lebanon, case studies, activists, civil society