What does a 'Leb' look like?
- Written by Sherene Idriss, Research associate, Western Sydney University
In 2012, I was interviewing a young man, Hamid*, as part of my research on the creative vocational aspirations of Lebanese-Australian young men. I asked him whether he had anything else to add, the usual courtesy given by researchers to interviewees. He paused, then said:
Well, your study is about creative identities and Lebanese young men, right? But the thing is you can’t be a Leb and be creative – it doesn’t make sense.
The interview was clearly not over.
In what followed, Hamid explained to me in great detail the defining stylistic elements of a “Leb”:
They wear Nike TNs and Dry Fit [shirts] … They walk around in their wannabe gangs and piss on everyone else, go to the gym, listen to Tupac or gangsta rap – that kind of thing.
A very similar image emerged when I asked the question, “What does a Leb look like?”, of the rest of my 20 informants, interviewed between 2011 and 2014. One young man said:
It’s not about being Lebanese; like me for example, I am Lebanese but I’m not a Leb. I have respect for people and I don’t walk around like I’m about to smash shit and graffiti the school.
The “Leb” embodies a type of hyper-masculinity that the young men in my study rejected entirely. One of the goals in my research was to uncover why this was the case and how ideas about masculinity can constrain aspirations.
Wassim*, an avid fan of Parkour, said all the Lebs at his school mocked him for riding his skateboard to school. “I hated the Lebs,” he said, without any concern that he might be mistaken for one – despite having been born and raised in a Lebanese migrant family.
In the public high schools in southwest Sydney, Leb style and attitude were dominant among the male students in the late 1990s and 2000s, giving them a certain sense of power in a society that consistently treated them as a source of moral panic.
In the book based on my research, Young Migrant Identities, I detail how every young Lebanese-Australian man I interviewed called himself a “non-Leb” at varying life stages. They had creative vocational aspirations in fields such as film, media, music and literature. They aspired to escape the stigma of their ethnic and working-class neighbourhoods in and around Bankstown; one of the ways they could articulate this to me was to distance themselves from the “Lebs” at their schools.
This is the reality that serves as the starting point for Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s provocative new novel, The Lebs.
Read more http://theconversation.com/what-does-a-leb-look-like-93367