The Molding of Lebanese Identity through “Temporary” Cultural Objects

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  • Title: The Molding of Lebanese Identity through “Temporary” Cultural Objects
  • Author(s): Noel Nasr, Simon Mhanna
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Design Principles & Practices
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Design in Society
  • Keywords: Identity, Street Language, Cultural Objects
  • Volume: 12
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2325-1328 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1360 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Nasr, Noel, and Simon Mhanna. 2018. "The Molding of Lebanese Identity through “Temporary” Cultural Objects ." The International Journal of Design in Society 12 (2): 13-22. doi:10.18848/2325-1328/CGP/v12i02/13-22.
  • Extent: 10 pages


Objects have the power to evoke feelings and thoughts. Whether created out of need or as the expression of an identity, they are the product of a culture. Over time, people develop relationships with objects, consciously or unconsciously. The project started with a survey whose principal interest was to gage people’s thoughts on Lebanese cultural objects used to fill a gap on any level of the system. The circuit breaker (“disjoncteur”), used for switching between the electricity provided by the government and electricity produced by private generator companies, came top of the list. Most Lebanese households and industries suffering from a long-term shortage of electricity resort to private generators for alternative energy. This service, which surfaced as a post-war phenomenon and gradually became mainstream, has steadily left a significant imprint on the identity of the country, becoming, within a fairly short time, a “legitimate” cultural resource that reveals shared habits and behaviors. The paper argues that the disjoncteur has marked the Lebanese streets and shaped the way Lebanese society functions to a profound extent. Furthermore, the authors challenge the notion of its “temporariness” in view of the entrenched corruption of the system and lack of real alternatives. It also brings to the fore the street language that emerged around the disjoncteur as a significant connecting node for multiple manifestations of system successes and failures, behaviors, and identities.