Coming of Age Abroad: A Lebanese “Practical Radical” in the Global Sixties

Dylan Baun, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Imad Nuwayhid (1944-1975) was an intellectual, fighter, and martyr. But well before his death during the Lebanese Civil War, he was also a migrant worker. In 1966-67, Imad worked at Hotel Hanover Intercontinental and detailed his experiences in fourteen letters home to his family. At the age of twenty-two, Imad wrote on his work, friends—Germans, Irish, Arabs—and life in Europe. In their diversity, these letters offer a window into how Arab youth came of age abroad in the “Global Sixties.” This paper examines Imad’s letters through the methodology of microhistory, exploring the becoming of young people, particularly minorities abroad, during this tumultuous era. Imad drew distinction between the emancipatory power of European socialism and the decadence of Lebanese nationalism. Concurrently, he bemoaned how West Germany treated its foreign labor force, working to gain a permit and training that would ameliorate his poverty. Imagining a career within the system, and decrying that system, this paper argues Imad was part of a young generation of “practical radicals.” Most pronounced for those of the Global South under neo-imperialism, who could not afford—financially and symbolically—to escape the status quo, they mediated the forces of capitalism and radicalism. Nevertheless, Imad and others were always inspired by the hope of a new world, as shown in Imad’s reaction to the Arab loss in the 1967 War. This paper seeks to contribute to the literature on youth politics and culture in the Global Sixties. It joins those who are writing the Middle East into this era, following the agents and ideas that forged global, transnational networks. It adds to this literature by considering new sources—letters—and a new unit of analysis—the individual youth—to reconstruct this generation’s dual dedication to fulfilling societal and familial expectations under capitalism and to total revolution.

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 Presented in Session 187. Youth Activism