Lebanese political advertising and the dialogic emergence of signs

Diane Riskedahl


This paper evaluates the role of written language in the construction of difference by looking at the emergence of two political advertising campaigns in Lebanon in 2006-2007. I will discuss how ad campaigns mounted by opposing Lebanese political factions were engaged in a battle over representing popular sentiment. Specific choices of typography, juxtaposition of codes, layout and physical placement of ads within the political landscape of urban Beirut all directly contributed to creating unique interdiscursive ideological framings for each party coalition. Due to the inter-sectarian nature of the political coalitions, the use of religious symbols was problematic in the construction of coalition identity. Other differentiating aspects such as class, patterns of consumption, and attitudes towards mourning became elemental in the creation of political distinctions and were indexically configured into this dialogue of signs.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
al-Batal, Mahmoud
(2007) Identity and language tension in Lebanon: The Arabic of local news at LBCI. In A. Rouchdy (ed.), Language Contact and Language Conflict in Arabic: Variations on a Sociolinguistic Theme. Curzon Arabic Linquistic Series . New York: Routledge, pp. 89-115.Google Scholar
AFP Beirut
(2008) Ads with an agenda: Lebanon’s battle of the billboards. March 31.Google Scholar
Agha, Asif
(2005) Voice, footing and enregisterment. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15.1: 38-59. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Angermeyer, Philipp
(2005) Spelling bilingualism: Script choice in Russian American classified ads and signage. Language in Society 34.4: 493-531. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Barton, David
(1994) Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. Oxford: Blackwell.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Barton, David, and Mary Hamilton
(2005) Literacy, reification and the dynamics of social interaction. In D. Barton, and K. Tusting (eds.), Beyond communities of practice: Language, power and social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 14-35. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Besnier, Niko
(1999) Literacy. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9.1-2: 141-143. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bucholtz, Mary, and Kira Hall
(2004) Theorizing identity in language and sexuality research. Language in Society 33: 469-515. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Butters, Andrew
(2007) Lebanon poster politics. Time Magazine Middle East Blog. Posted January 18 2007.Google Scholar
Collins, James
(1995) Literacy and literacies. Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 75-93. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Collins, James, and Stef Slembrouck
(2007) Reading shop windows in globalized neighborhoods: Multilingual literacy and indexicality. Journal of Literacy Research 39.3: 335-356. Crossref CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Deeb, Lara
(2008) Exhibiting the ‘just-lived past’: Hizbullah’s nationalist narratives in transnational political context. Comparative Studies in Society and History 50.2: 369-399. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Daveluy, M., and J. Ferguson
(2009) Scripted urbanity in the Canadian north. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19: 78–100. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Eckert, Penelope
(2006) Communities of practice. Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Amsterdam: Elsevier. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Frekko, Susan
(2009) Signs of respect: Neighborhood, public, and language in Barcelona. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 19.2: 227-245. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Gal, S., and K. Woolard
(2001) Constructing languages and publics: Authority and representation. In S. Gal, and K. Woolard (eds.), Languages and Publics: The making of authority. Manchester: St. Jerome, pp. 2-12.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hustwit, Gary
(2007) Helvetica. London: Swiss Dots, Ltd.Google Scholar
Irvine, J., and S. Gal
(2000) Language ideology and linguistic differentiation. In P. Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of language: ideologies, polities, and identities. Santa Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press, pp. 35-83.Google Scholar
Khalaf, Samir, and Philip Khoury
(1993) Recovering Beirut: Urban design and post-war reconstructionsSocial, Economic and Political Studies of the Middle East Vol. 47. New York: Brill.Google Scholar
Khatib, Lina
(2007) Television and public action in the Beirut Spring. In N. Sakr (ed.), Arab Media and Political Renewal: Community, Legitimacy and Public Life. London: IB Tauris, pp. 28-43. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
LaDousa, Chaise
(2002) Advertising in the periphery: Languages and schools in a North Indian city. Language in Society 31: 213-242. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
McElhinney, Bonnie
(2010) The audacity of affect: Gender, race and history in linguistic accounts of legitimacy and belonging. Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 309-328. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Mazzarella, William
(2003) “Very Bombay” contending with the global in an Indian advertising agencyCultural Anthropology 18.1: 33-71. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Peteet, Julie
(1996) The writing on the walls: The graffiti of the Intifada. Cultural Anthropology 11.2: 139-159. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Safa, Oussama
(2006) Lebanon springs forward. Journal of Democracy 17.1: 22-37. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Scollon, Ron
(1998) Mediated discourse as social interaction: A study of news discourse. Language in Social Life Series. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Shaban, Kassim, and Ghazi Ghaith
(2002) Research notes: University students’ perceptions of the ethnolinguistic vitality of Arabic, French and English in Lebanon. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6.4: 557-574. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Silverstein, Michael
(2003) Indexical order and the dialectics of sociolinguistic life. Language and Communication 23.3-4: 193–229. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Sukarieh, Mayssoun
(2007) We love life whenever we can. Electronic Lebanon 5 Jan 2007 http://​electronicintifada​.net​/v2​/article6364​.shtml (last accessed June 10, 2009)
(2012) The hope crusades: Culturalism and reform in the Arab world. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 35.1: 115-134. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Traboulsi, Fawwaz
(2008) Lebanon on the brink. In N. Hovsepian (ed.), The War on Lebanon: A reader. Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, pp. 349-357.Google Scholar
White, Geoffry
(1991) Emotional remembering: The pragmatics of national memory. Ethnos 27.4: 505-552.Google Scholar
Wimmers, Heiko
(2007) Rallying around the renegade. Middle East Report. August 27.Google Scholar
Woolard, Kathryn
(1998) Introduction: Language ideology as a field of inquiry. In B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard, and P. Kroskrity (eds.), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-47.Google Scholar