Protests in Lebanon: The “Trash Uprising” and the End of the Post-War Republic

Samer Frangie, PhD - Associate Professor, Political Studies and Public Administration, and Director, Center for Arab and Middle East Studies, American University of Beirut


In August 2015, mounds of garbage piled up in major Lebanese cities, leading to the biggest non-sectarian protest since the end of the civil war (1991). For a couple of weeks in August and September, Beirut witnessed daily demonstrations, often turning violent, protesting against the corruption of the government. What started as a localized protest against the government’s mismanagement of the waste management sector quickly turned into a crisis of legitimacy of the political system. In a context of global uprisings and regional revolutions, the short-lived protest movement signaled the entry of Lebanon in the current global cycle of discontent. The country did not witness a major upheaval similar to what happened in neighboring countries, but similar processes of de-legitimization of the established political orders are taking place. The talk will examine what came to be known as the “trash uprising,” by locating it in its historical trajectory before presenting some of its afterlives. Through an examination of the protest movement, the talk will put the Lebanese ‘trash uprising’ in conversation with the global wave of protests that started in 2011, in order to probe the changing contours of the present and its discontent.


Samer Frangie’s research is at the intersection of the intellectual history of the Arab world and political theory, and examines the history of the Arab left. He has published a number of articles dealing with various aspects of the history of the Arab left, in journals such as the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Modern Intellectual History, Third Quarterly and Thesis Eleven among others. He is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively entitled The Politics of the Aftermath: Tradition, Tragedy and Temporality in the Lebanese Left. Aside from his academic work, he is a frequent contributor to the pan-Arab daily newspaper, al-Hayat.

Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the Department of Jewish, Islamic, and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the College of Arts & Sciences, International and Area Studies, and WashU Foreign Policy Engagement at Washington University in St. Louis.

For more info:  Professor Nancy Reynolds •