in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics
Lebanon is a multisectarian society of four million people, divided among eighteen sectarian affiliations, many of which are highly salient in Lebanese society. The country experienced a complex, multifaceted civil conflict from 1975 to 1990, the aftermath of which continues to shape political interaction in the country. Sectarian identity has evolved, both before as well as after the civil conflict, shaped by clientelism, individual identities, and Islamist political movements. Despite years of conflict, identity in post-war Lebanon has remained fluid, and while sect is still a relevant identity marker, it is neither as deterministic nor as linked to religious piety as outside observers may expect. Research shows that Lebanese citizens face pressures to conform to sectarian beliefs due to the control that sectarian political parties have over goods distribution, but, at the same time, conforming to the sectarian democratic system may moderate the absolutist claims of Islamist political movements, especially Hizbollah. Despite the institutional and demographic idiosyncrasies of the Lebanese political system, each of these findings do much to inform outside literature on religion and post-conflict processes, along with tangential work on clientelism, the role of identity and politics and Islamic politics. However, there is still much to be done. Researchers should devote more attention to the growing backlash against sectarianism among popular movements within Lebanon and do more to explore the links between clientelism and sectarian identity in more precise and greater detail.