Trade-marking Tradition: An Ethnographic Study of the Lebanese Wine Industry

Saleh, Elizabeth. 2014. Trade-marking Tradition: An Ethnographic Study of the Lebanese Wine Industry. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis is an ethnographic study of Lebanese wine producers and their on-going efforts to create and sustain a niche in the international market for their high quality wines. By focusing upon enterprising strategies deployed within the Lebanese wine industry and on the types of work relations that are formed, I explore how knowledge required for the construction of a market entails a capacity to (re)produce it as a social reality. In so doing, I pay particular attention to the change in work-related and familial bodies of knowledge in the Kefraya region of the Bekaa Valley, a major wine-growing hub in Lebanon. Villagers in Kefraya have sold their grapes to wineries across Lebanon since the first harvest of the early plantations of the 1950s, which was initiated by a member of the urban mercantile elite whose family owned land in the region.
Part of my analysis considers the history Lebanese wine production and its modernization as part of a wider and much longer project of French cultural hegemony in the region that pre-exist even the French Mandate of the early twentieth century; it can be traced back to the sericulture industry of the seventeenth century. Entangled with the French hegemony are the political and economic interests of local actors with extensive trade networks extending well beyond the peripheries of the rural plains of the Bekaa, the urban port of Beirut, and into the very heart of Europe. I argue that the current enthusiasm for the production of high quality wines by elite urban entrepreneurs speaks of a history of social transformation and shifts in perceptions of place. Here the discourse of nature that shape the production of quality wines also fits within an understanding of history and the market, where practices of winegrowing not adhering to standards that serve as elitist markers for singularity and authenticity result in lower rankings or failure to be classified as wine at all.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Wine, Food, Anthropology, Labour, Lebanon, Agriculture, Landscape, Elites, Entrepreneurs

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



4 December 2014

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Dec 2014 12:25

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:49


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