I am off for vacation in a semi-wilderness of the Arctic Circle where the Internet connection is dubious. So, I will be offline for a couple of weeks, but I leave you with this:

A friend of mine decided to come to Lebanon for a visit with her American husband. She has a Green Card and has been living in the US for almost a decade. She approaches the consul with a full-fledged application asking for a multiple-entry tourist visa to Lebanon. Mr. Consul stares at her application, stares at her wide-eyed and asks:

— And you are from India?

— Yes.

— What do you do for a living again?

— I am a professor at XYZ University.

— Well, call in a couple of weeks. But to be honest with you, I don’t think it is possible for you to get a visa.

Why, one wonders, would the country of services and tourism reject a tourist visa application beforehand when the applicant is obviously a tourist who has no intention of remaining in Lebanon? The keyword is of course “India,” making this story an instance of how labor-labels or function-labels attach to certain nationalities in Lebanon. This is a conversation I was having not too long ago with Sean, about how “Sri Lanki,” “Russian,” “Saudi,” “Syrian,” etc. often indicate not just a nationality, but a boxed function in Lebanese society. That is true to some degrees of many places, but the law in Lebanon reinforces this state of affairs and makes it difficult to move beyond it and have access to wider functions in society by, say, living long enough in the country and acquiring citizenship. With the result that second generation Sri Lankis in Lebanon today still have the job prescription of, well, “Sri Lanki.”

My friend’s story is an instance of this “labor profiling.” Mr. Consul was not merely being bigoted, though. Like a good bureaucrat, he was interpreting the law within the bounds of his duty. General Security’s outline of entrance visas to Lebanon shamelessly illustrates how the legal enshrines social prejudices into a boxing-in system of job-prescriptions. Legally, my friend should have been applying for a “Visa for work/labor” (link on the left) for that is where “India” appears. Had she been applying for a tourist visa (as a non-Arab), she should have been from one of the countries listed under “Entrance visa for the citizens of some foreign countries coming for the purpose of tourism.”

There is much to say about these visa categories, particularly about the exemptions listed under “Note” in “Entrance visa for the citizens of some foreign countries etc.,” as well as about the “Fashion model” visa, which functions as a thin veil for prostitution. General Security requires STD tests from those applying as fashion models and facilitates their visas during the shopping month and the summer festival. This used to be the function of the “Artist” visa until not too long ago, which partly explains why for the longest time prostitutes were colloquially referred to as “artistes” (French pronunciation).

So, I leave you with this riveting read on General Security’s website. And hope you enjoy what is left of the summer!