This volume asks fundamental questions about the political impact of cultural institutions by exploring the power struggles for control over such institutions in Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate rule. Countering assertions of French imperial cultural ascendancy and self-confidence, the book demonstrates the diverse capacities of Arab and other local communities, to forge competing cultural identities that would, in later years, form the basis for rising political self-enfranchisement. Drawing on a wide array of written sources and oral testimonies, the book illuminates how political and religious leaders fought to harness the force of culture through projects as diverse as schools, cinema, scouting, and tourism. These leaders were to be found not only in the French colonial administration or the burgeoning Syrian and Lebanese parliaments, but also in student societies, missionary congregations, and philanthropic organizations. The book pays particular attention to the last decade of French rule before Syrian and Lebanese independence as a critical time of transition and debate. The rich individual histories of institutions such as the American University of Beirut, the secular French Mission laïque, or the Jesuit missionaries come together in a broader narrative that speaks to the ongoing Syrian and Lebanese journeys toward national identity.