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Planting of Pines and Publics: Retracing the Steps of Fakhr al-Din II from Beirut to Florence

February 9, 2023 at 5:30 pm until 7:00 pm

Hodson 210

Lecture by Sasha Tycko and Peter Habib. The 16th/17th-century Druze emir, Fakhr al-Din II, who is regarded as the founder of modern Lebanon, defied Ottoman authorities and was forced into exile with the Medici family in Florence. While in Tuscany, al-Din studied Italian political and social technology, which included forestry, and, upon his return to Lebanon, al-Din planted a forest of Italian pine trees to filter the air blowing into historic Beirut. The remaining pine trees growing today in Horsh Beirut—the only public park in Beirut, where entry is heavily regulated—have become the landscape for a conflict concerning citizenship and the public realm in modern Lebanon. In the summer of 2022, we retraced Fakhr al-Din’s route from the Chouf region of Mount Lebanon to the Medici family’s Boboli Gardens in Florence, back to Horsh Beirut. Through the mimetic movement of ethnographic fieldwork, we articulate a dialectical relationship of possibility and reality between history and the present by focusing not on events of political crisis, but on the stories sedimented in the soil of disparate landscapes. We ask: What is revealed and made possible through the retracing of movement across geography, between the planting of pines and the formation of publics?