The weight of the past and inherited identities is not the only factor of creativity as the previous texts might suggest. Tensions are clearly manifested between individual aspirations and the group, but also between the pursuit of privacy and the need to express one’s personality on the one hand and strong social constraints on the other. In this sense, it would be overly simplistic to observe leisure activities only through the prism of the group phenomena and mass cultures in which they are involved. The following texts examine mechanisms of self-construction in the face of a variety of powerful constraints, whether familial and personal or political, economic and social. Although Arab societies do not appear to be specific in this regard, this third part nevertheless highlights the difficulty of ‘building the self’, or more precisely the self-sufficient individual, in one’s spare time in societies that remain marked by powerful social determinism, even though they are constantly changing.
The introduction sets out the purpose of the book. It details the core objectives before outlining the seven key themes which run throughout. The final section of the chapter provides a brief outline of how the book proceeds. It describes how the book is divided into three parts and includes a brief synopsis of each chapter. Information about the datasets and the analytical methods used are also included. Lastly, the introduction reiterates that the Liberal Democrats face a set of existential challenges given the party’s travails and the widespread political turbulence after 2010. It stresses that the book explores the reasons for these crises and the party’s room for manoeuvre in the post-Brexit and post-pandemic environment of British politics.
It was at the start of the 1990s, as a gloomy decade gave way to an even bleaker one, that the term ‘hittist’ was coined in Algeria. Emblematic of a part of the youth of this period, the hittist became a persistent stereotype. This chapter examines its significance and analyses what it tells us explicitly or implicitly about a shared feeling of emptiness (no stable employment, no prospects, no family, nothing to do): ‘All the young unemployed of Algeria are leaning against the wall all day long, and after a while they’ve taken on the wall’s name.’ As the Algerian comedian Fellag explained in 1997, in a delightful mixture of Arabic and French, the hittists – named after the Algerian word for wall, hitt – are young people, more precisely young men, who spend most of their time leaning against the walls of their neighbourhood since they have nothing else to do. The word, as well as the expression ‘being a hittist’, became extremely popular over the last two decades, and a whole repertoire of images of this generation spread through literature, film, music, the media and everyday conversations. Inseparable from its era, the term now seems outdated and is falling out of use, superseded by new puns and jokes, new forms of self-mockery. But it retains the force of the prejudices that affected that generation.
The wanderings of young Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
In the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, there is an appreciation for calm. On the one hand, life is difficult for the refugees. The war (1975–1990) has left its mark on people’s minds, and refugees, mistrusted by the nationals, are subject to systematic discrimination. The fear of a permanent settlement that would alter the balance among communities in the country has led to significant restrictions on their social rights: limited access to the labour market, despite a relaxation of the law in 2010; inability to own property, etc. Furthermore, camp dwellers are regularly subjected to episodes of violence, the most recent of which led to the destruction of a large part of the Nahr al-Bared camp north of Tripoli in 2007. The routines established have therefore created a comforting ‘cultural enclave’, if not for the intense infighting that sometimes arises. The young people (shabab) exist in the camp’s unusual social environment without seeking to disrupt its norms, either in their behaviour or appearance. Forms of entertainment are not fundamentally different from what can be found in poor neighbourhoods in cities around the world. But it’s one thing to have fun in the rather boring routine of the camp, and another to occupy Lebanese spaces. For inhabitants of the camps, especially the younger generations, the latter offers a more interesting area of exploration where the entertainment, even when similar, is enhanced thanks to small shifts in atmosphere.
Chapter 9 examines whether Liberal Democrat campaigning post-2015 has been left behind by that of its rivals and whether the ethos of community politics and place-based campaigns can still make a difference. The chapter is divided into three main sections. The first addresses whether the 2015 collapse was symptomatic of longer-term trends, particularly given the lack of electoral growth in 2017 and 2019. It focuses on whether the party had stopped doing what worked or if Liberal Democrat personal contact modes of campaigning have become less effective. Using survey and experimental evidence from elections throughout the 2010s it addresses these questions head on. The second section examines digital campaigning post-2010 and assesses whether the Liberal Democrats had been left behind or were the victims of online political inequities which coincide with imbalances in offline resources. It delves into the party’s digital campaigning strategy and puts into perspective the extent to which the digital sphere can level out underlying campaign disparities. The final section of the chapter examines the Liberal Democrats’ 2019 campaign strategy, targeting and tactics to assess whether the party was still on the back foot or whether it was showing signs of winning back its campaign advantage.
The Liberal Democrats: From hope to despair to where? offers crucial insight into the rise, fall and future prospects of the Liberal Democrats – who threatened to break the mould of British politics, entered national government and suffered electoral calamity as a consequence. It analyses the Liberal Democrats’ path to government and near oblivion, and examines the relationship between the party and the electorate in the post-coalition, post-Brexit and post-pandemic eras. It assesses the electoral strategy that enabled growth but precipitated failure, explains how and why the party got the coalition so wrong and the consequences of that failure, and plots a potential future for a party coming to terms with its own political identity. The book evaluates the dynamic relationship between the party and voters, showing the spatial and contextual foundations of Liberal Democrat campaigning and performance in the search for credibility and viability. The Liberal Democrats remain contradictory: a minor party with ambitions to break the status quo; a party whose fortunes depend on firm and decisive leadership but that relies on grassroots activism to remain relevant; a party desperate for its own identity but reliant on others to reach its potential. From hope to despair to where? helps unravel these apparent contradictions.
It is football evening in Ramallah. There are klaxons, yelling, flags and traffic jams. Giant screens are erected in cafés and supporters are coming out, some of them painted on their faces and many of them wearing shirts in their favourite team’s colours. The match does not pit two Palestinian teams against one another, but Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Whenever the two Spanish teams meet for league and cup ties, a party is organised. How can one understand the mobilising power of globalised or, at any rate, ‘extra-territorial’ football among supporters attached to it neither by birthplace nor by residence? While the two clubs’ ‘capacity to mobilize and symbolize collective affiliations’ (in the words of sociologist Ludovic Lestrelin) has been studied in other contexts, in what ways is a phenomenon now visible in Palestinian society, which confronts a colonial situation? This chapter seeks to understand the rationale for the syndrome of ‘long-distance support’, which is structured around sporting contests, but also political and even ideological issues, in the ‘café-stadiums’ of the West Bank and Gaza.
Chapter 5 takes a closer look at the Liberal Democrats’ campaign machine in 2015. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the growth in the party’s local base combined with the ruthless effectiveness of its all-year-round ground campaign led to an aura of invincibility. Yet frailties began to emerge prior to entering coalition government as party resources became stretched and longstanding traditional techniques lost potency as rival parties not only adopted similar methods but advanced their campaign toolkit. From this starting point, the chapter examines how the coalition impacted the Liberal Democrat campaign machine. It first details the damage to the local infrastructure and how it diminished the party’s electoral prospects in 2015. Importantly, despite the incessant electoral mauling of its local base, it shows how areas with stronger local Liberal Democrat representation both directly and indirectly boosted party support, the latter by enhancing local campaign activism, which undoubtedly saved the party from being electorally wiped out. The second section of the chapter focuses more specifically on key battles before and during the election campaign. It addresses whether the Liberal Democrats’ campaign machine had been left behind in key seats, outfought by its rivals, or simply lacked the resources to compete following decimation of its local infrastructure during the coalition period. The chapter raises a number of longer-term questions about the role, tactics, technological advancement, competitiveness and effectiveness of Liberal Democrat campaigning.
Over the past forty years, the Lebanese Shiite community has become politically structured, that is, Shiite leadership and political institutions have been established alongside those of the other recognised denominations in the country. It is in this context that social institutions and Shiite schools have developed. Through them, the main partisan organisations in the community, Hezbollah and Amal, offer young Lebanese Shiites a wide range of leisure activities in scout camps (vacation camps focusing on nature and religious activities) as well as schools (Koran clubs, sports clubs, cultural or religious outings). Among these activities, theatre occupies a prominent place. It is situated at the crossroads of religious, militant and community engagement, perceived by its promoters as a tool for socialisation and training as much – and perhaps even more than – as a means of creativity and expression. The variety of theatre clubs in Shiite schools has resulted in a plurality of uses, sometimes serving divergent objectives. In schools associated with Hezbollah, whose three main networks (al-Mahdi, al-Imdad and al-Mustapha) contain about 25,000 students, the staging and dramatisation inherent in theatre are part of the growing visibility of Shiite religiosity in the public arena and its ideologisation since the 1980s. Theatre has become one of the key methods for socialising youth, permitted and even encouraged by religion as conceived by clerics close to Hezbollah.
In mid-October 2011, the revolutionary song ‘Irhal Irhal Ya Bashar’ (‘Leave, Leave, Bashar’) was played at full volume without any warning in various public and ministerial buildings across Damascus. The music came from carefully concealed radio cassette players. Those responsible were militants from Ayyam al-Hurriyya (Freedom Days), a group calling for acts of civil disobedience: in October 2011, for example, they dyed the Fountains of Damascus and the Barada River red in memory of the martyrs of the revolution. Neither a movement nor an organisation, Ayyam al-Hurriyya is a loose network of activists who share the same objective: to overthrow the regime through non-violent resistance. Founded in October 2011, when Damascus and Aleppo were still on the fringes of the uprising, Ayyam al-Hurriyya carried out spectacular actions to make people in both cities aware of the revolution. Ayyam al-Hurriyya has a solid base in Syria but is also present all over the world. Its activists do not lay claim to a particular ideology: although many of them might define themselves as liberals, their ranks also include Islamists. Digital platforms have been their fundamental tools for launching and coordinating new activities involving a variety of groups.