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Middle East Urbanism Beyond Conflict

Thu, Feb 16, 2023

Middle East Urbanism Beyond Conflict: Current Research, Ongoing Debates, and Next Directions

This two-day conference is organized by Assistant Professor Hiba Bou Akar with the Post-Conflict City Lab and the Urban Planning Program. Co-sponsored with the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, Middle East Institute, Maison Française, Columbia GSAPP and Barnard Urban Studies.

This event is free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome to attend. Guests without a valid Columbia University ID must register in advance and confirm COVID-19 vaccination status in compliance with current Columbia University health requirements using this online form.


The Post-Conflict Cities Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation is hosting a two-day graduate student conference titled “Middle East Urbanism Beyond Conflict: Current Research, Ongoing Debates, and Next Directions,” to be held on February 16-17, 2023. This interdisciplinary conference seeks to bring together doctoral students and scholars working on issues related to urbanism and the production of space in Middle Eastern and North African cities (MENA). The MENA region has been mostly discussed and narrated from the perspective of conflict and delineated as a space from which theory cannot emerge. However, the critical research coming out from the Middle East and North African cities is providing cutting edge scholarly contributions on how urban space is shaped by a range of actors (including political parties, international aid organizations, religious groups, and NGOs) and a variety of geo-political flows (such as capital, migration, labor, revolutionary solidarities, and militarization) that produce space and the built environment from housing and infrastructure to borders and refugee camps. This emerging body of urban scholarship is contributing to theorizing about the urban condition from the Global South at large. This conference includes panels of graduate students led by faculty discussants along with a faculty roundtable on the current status and future of Middle Eastern urban studies. In coming together for this conference, we look forward to providing the space to push the conversation on urbanism and spatial production in Middle Eastern and North African cities, and the theoretical implications of theorizing about the urban from the MENA region.


Thursday, February 16

9:30am-10am | Opening Remarks

  • Hiba Bou Akar, Mekarem Eljamal, Calvin Harrison

10am-11:45am | Panel: Ruination and Rebuilding

  • Dina Yunis – Against Ruination: Space, Creativity, and Political Identities in Beirut and Aleppo
  • Hayfaa Abou Ibrahim and Rand Mekaram – A Polycrisis and an Absent State: Implications of Post-Disaster Urban Recovery in Beirut, Lebanon
  • Thayer Hastings – Slow Violence in Sheikh Jarrah
  • Nikolas Michael – Utopia in the Ghost City: Competing Visions for Varosha
  • Idil Onen – The Production of Kurdish Urban Identity Beyond Conflict
  • Discussant: Claire Panetta

1pm – 2:45pm | Panel: Resistances and (Imagined) Urban Futures

  • Andres Ramirez – Qiddiya’s Journey: A Case Study in Urban Imagineering and Image Laundering
  • Lama Suleiman – Parallax Haifa
  • Mekarem Eljamal – Reading Urban Futures: Urban Imaginations in “Palestine +100”
  • Mahdi Sabbagh – Means of Environmental Manipulation in Sliwan
  • Motasem Abuzaid – Urban Collective Action in Damascus, Aleppo, and Hama
  • Discussant: Rosie Bsheer

3pm – 4:45pm | Panel: Encampments and Informalities

  • Eric Raimondi – Border Securitization and Human Mobility on Samos
  • Matthew DeMaio – Urban Encampment in Yarmouk
  • Marylin Chahine – Self-help and Mutual Aid in Hay al-Tanak
  • Amir Khaghani – Place making in Tehran: Enghelab Street and Spatialities of Changing Perceptions
  • Francesco Pasta – Soon-to-be but Not Quite Yet: Migration, Urban Transformation, and Extended Transiency in Fikirtepe, Istanbul
  • Discussant: Berna Turam

5:30pm – 7:15pm | Faculty Roundtable

  • Hiba Bou Akar
  • Claire Panetta
  • Rosie Bsheer
  • Berna Turam
  • Arang Keshavarzian
  • Ziad Abu Rish
  • Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins
  • Moderator: Calvin Harrison

Friday, February 17

10am – 11:45am | Panel: Environments and Infrastructures

  • Megan Awwad – The Jordan River: Memory, Displacement, and Return
  • Rawan Alsaffar – Constructing Water: The Infrastructure and Politics of Desalination in Kuwait
  • Anas Al-Khatib and Raneem Ayyad – Dashed Line: A Deconstruction of Wadi Gaza’s Reality
  • Alice Kezhaya – Building Lebanon’s National Electricity Headquarters as Infrastructure
  • Ingy Higazy – The Contentious Ring Road: The Politics of Urban Mobility (In)Justice in Cairo
  • Discussant: Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins

1pm – 2:45pm | Panel: Political Economies of Land

  • Azadeh Mashayekhi – State and Religious Institutions Relations in Governing Urban Change and Tackling Urban Inequalities: Insights from Iran, Tehran
  • John Jamil Kallas – Uneven Housing Development under Syria’s Ba’ath Party
  • Ibrahim Abdou – Negotiating the Legal Landscape on Cairo’s Periphery
  • Omnia Khalil – Baltaga, Maslaha, and the Political Economy of Violence in Boulaq Abule’lla
  • Diala Lteif – The Slaughterhouse of the Year 2000: Labor Struggles and the Production of Space
  • Discussant: Arang Keshavarzian

3pm – 4:45pm | Panel: Urban Histories

  • Nadia Tadros – Resisting Dispossession: A History of Ramallah’s Shopkeepers
  • Asmaa Elgamal – Planning as Risk Management: Soldiers, Land Agents and Spies in Colonial Morocco
  • Jan Altaner – Solidere’s Predecessors: Class and Urban Planning in Downtown Beirut, 1958-1975
  • Rawan Hayat – Beyond Oil and the State: New Histories for Kuwait City
  • Janina Shirin Santer – Nighttime in the City: Infrastructures of Popular Culture in Beirut (1940s-1950s)
  • Discussant: Ziad Abu-Rish

4:45pm – 5pm

  • Closing Remarks – Hiba Bou Akar

GSAPP is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. Please contact events@arch.columbia.edu to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.