Date of Award

2013

First Advisor

Kathryn Boswell

Second Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer

Abstract

This thesis presents a series of ethnographic sketches of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon in 2010 and 2011. The focus is on the interactions between the University students and the semi-feral cats that populate the campus as a means of understanding the students’ sensual, affective and political experience of the campus. Through these sketches, I seek to illustrate the effects that the 1975-1991 Lebanese Civil War continue to have on the student culture at the University. This work is grounded in the “affect” approach to anthropological theory (Berlant 2011, Gregg and Seidworth 2010, Navaro-Yashin 2012, Stewart 2007), in which historical, cartographic, and observational techniques inform the analysis; specifically, the multi-faceted relationship of the students and the cats at AUB is examined in light of the role of animals as imagined symbols, and the pervasive yet unspoken traumas of Civil War. Though the fighting has been over for two decades, no public displays acknowledge the Civil War’s tragedies. The conclusion of this exercise details the intricacies and the symbolic investiture of wartime guilt and trauma, inherent in the cats’ existence and reproduction, as it relates to the multisensual reality of the AUB community.

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