July 17, 2023
Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) is pleased to announce that Hiba Bou Akar has been promoted to associate professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2023. Bou Akar has taught courses within the School’s Master of Science and Ph.D. in Urban Planning programs since 2017 and founded the Post-Conflict Cities Lab (PCCL) in 2018. Her research focuses on planning in conflict and post-conflict cities, the question of urban security and violence, and the role of religious political organizations in the making of cities.
Bou Akar’s book For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers (Stanford University Press, 2018) examines how Beirut’s post-civil war peripheries have been transformed through multiple planning exercises into contested frontiers that are mired in new forms of conflict. Based on ethnographic and archival inquiries that build on ten years of research, planning, and design practice in Lebanon, the book contributes to planning thought by studying planning practice within a framework of past and anticipated futures of crises and violence. Attesting to its interdisciplinary contribution, the book won the 2019 Anthony Leeds Prize for the best book in Urban Anthropology from the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology. It also received the Nikki Keddie Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association and an Honorable Mention from the Lebanese Studies Association. Bou Akar is also co-editor with Mohamad Hardea of Narrating Beirut from its Borderlines, published by Heinrich Böll in 2011. She is currently working on her second book project titled, Sedimentary Urbanization: Displacement, Refugeeness, and the New Geographies of Dead Futures, in which she investigates how low-income Lebanese families and Syrian refugees gain access to affordable housing in Beirut’s peripheries. Bou Akar’s research on Beirut has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, National Science Foundation (NSF), the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS).
Bou Akar extends her framework of analysis about the temporalities of planning in contested spaces by thinking from Beirut’s violent geographies to the violence of structural racism that underpinned planning interventions in Black geographies in the U.S. She has been writing about planning interventions in Sanford, Florida after the killing of Trayvon Martin, and the layers of racist and violent cycles of planning interventions in Morningside Heights in New York City. In March 2021, she organized the widely-attended conference on “Planning Futures? On Decolonial, Postcolonial, and Abolitionist Planning.“ In 2020, Bou Akar worked with masters and Ph.D. students in her courses to develop the open-source annotated reading list "Pandemic Urbanism: Praxis in the time of COVID-19,” which explores the pandemic as it relates to urbanism, urban planning, architecture, and the built environment. This publication has been downloaded more than 8000 times by students, scholars, and practitioners around the world.
The Post-Conflict Cities Lab (PCCL) that Bou Akar founded and that she currently directs focuses on post-conflict urban planning and engages in research on how planning practice in contested cities has been simultaneously a tool of pacification, conflict, and development. PCCL’s inaugural project was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation that Professor Bou Akar received to study “Urban Research and Practice in Post Conflict Settings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region.” Most recently, Bou Akar organized, through the PCCL, the conference “Middle East Urbanism Beyond Conflict: Current Research, Ongoing Debates, and Next Directions” which took place in February 2023. Through PCCL, she also funded and co-developed an urban intervention project entitled “On Rooftops and Under the Ground” which delves into the urban conditions of Beirut and the infrastructural challenges the city has confronted in times of crisis. The project supported and featured the work of five artists and urban researchers reflecting on urbanization in times of crises, showcased in a seaside neighborhood in Beirut in July 2023.
Bou Akar received her Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and a Master in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).