Schools’ Role in Shaping Youth Collective Memory of Conflict and Experiences of Sectarianism in Lebanon

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This study analyzes Lebanese and Palestinian youths’ memories of sectarian conflict, their sources of knowledge, and how their memories shape their experiences of current sectarian divides. From 1975 until 1990, Lebanon experienced a civil war characterized by religious violence, and sectarian conflict continues in the country today. However, the nation’s history curriculum stops at 1946. Qualitative analysis of 23 interviews conducted with Lebanese and Palestinian high school graduates from a range of educational backgrounds suggests that students are not socialized to memories of conflict – the civil war and that of the present day – in school settings. Students perceive other sources of information such as their parents and the media as unreliable, resulting in limited understandings of the conflict. While youths’ vague memories are neutral, students perceive one another as biased. This perception, coupled with a history curriculum that emphasizes rote memorization over critical thinking, fosters the belief that sectarian divides are immutable. The conception of sectarianism as unchanging and everlasting contributes to disempowerment in overcoming religious divisions. History curricula must be strengthened to enable youth to collectively engage with their past and build a more unified Lebanese society.


Public Policy Honors Thesis




Viret, Christophe (2015). Schools’ Role in Shaping Youth Collective Memory of Conflict and Experiences of Sectarianism in Lebanon. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.