Mukhtars are deeply embedded in Lebanon’s power relations. They are invested in, and part of the country’s hybrid political order, with all the sectarianism and clientelism this entails. Yet, the institution’sbridging social capital, and its potential to guard, and embody some rudimentary form of public space that is rare in Lebanon is evident. However modest their position, mukhtars constitute an indispensible grassroots component of the administrative, and social glue that holds Lebanon’s different urban fiefdoms, and extra-state spaces together. Considering Lebanon’s virulent governance and refugee crises, therefore, much is to be said for bolstering one of Lebanon’s oldest, and perhaps most pragmatic, state institutions.
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(Image taken by author during fieldwork in Beirut, March 2015)