Studies on colonial Lebanon explain social change and the engagement with the state from the perspective of the rural landed elites and urban notables. Lebanon is usually investigated as a place for exhibiting or reconciling diverse sectarian cultures that ultimately develop a Libanist or Arabist national identity of some sort. Studies on Lebanon have rarely attended to the voices from below, or class and provincial engagements with colonialism. My article focuses on Shiite peasants and rural workers in the south struggling against a wide range of dislocations and civil disruptions brought by colonialism and the nascent Lebanese nation-state. The article also explores the connections among sectarian dynamics, colonial discipline, and peasant militancy. Shiite peasants used tools of collective organization, bargaining, and revolts against the French and drew critical alliances with a sector of the landed notables and religious intellectuals. The peasants were less amenable to Libanist national projections and not readily mobilized on the basis of a Shiite sectarian identity. Rather, their demands in the petitions they sent to the French and the slogans they raised during the revolts reflected suspicion of nationalist politics and a concern for local economic empowerment and political representation.

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