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Fluid sovereignty: state-nature relations in the Hasbani Basin, southern Lebanon

Mason, Michael ORCID: 0000-0002-8831-0593 and Khawlie, Mohamad (2016) Fluid sovereignty: state-nature relations in the Hasbani Basin, southern Lebanon. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 106 (6). 1344 - 1359. ISSN 2469-4452

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Identification Number: 10.1080/24694452.2016.1213155


The concept of fluid sovereignty denotes configurations of state authority in which flows of living and non-living things, within and across borders, render insecure claims of unconditional territorial control. Loss of monopoly control of the means of violence within a territory conventionally signals weak political sovereignty. Bordering Israel (including the occupied Golan Heights) and Syria, the Hasbani Basin, southern Lebanon, seems to exemplify such sovereign failings: over decades, rival security providers have provoked political instability and conflict in the region. However, fluid sovereignty brings to the fore state-nature relations neglected in scholarship on “fragile” or “failing” states. Informed by geographical work on hybrid sovereignties and vital materialism, we show how sovereign claims over the Hasbani Basin extend to (sub)terranean water sources and rainfall-dependent agricultural lands, both of which are deeply securitized. Incomplete centralization and territorialization by Lebanon of the Hasbani Basin evinces fractured state nature—the inability of the state to realize volumetric control of, and authority over, basin waters. This state nature is coproduced by the fluid materiality of the waters themselves, whose hydro-climatic circulation and contingencies are at odds with territorial designs for volumetric control. For rural communities in the Hasbani Basin economically dependent on access to agricultural water, field research reveals a practical experience of fluid sovereignty, both in adapting to water variability and also navigating use of agricultural borderlands subject to conflict-related dangers. Recent conflict spillovers from the Syrian war have reinforced, for the majority Druze population, the low legitimacy of Lebanese state nature.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2016 11:30
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2024 18:57
Projects: MEC-AC-2011-02
Funders: Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy

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