For the War Yet to Come
Planning Beirut's Frontiers
Hiba Bou Akar


Contents and Abstracts
Prologue: War in Times of Peace
chapter abstract

The Prologue offers a theorization of the spatial and temporal logics of the war yet to come through which Beirut's south and southeastern peripheries are governed and regulated. It locates these peripheries spatially in the city, and provides an overview of how these peripheries, in times of peace, have been transformed into frontiers of urban growth and sectarian violence largely through the spatial practices of religious-political organizations, mostly former civil war militias and the major political players in post–civil war Lebanon. These organizations include the Shiite Hezbollah, the Sunni Future Movement, the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), and the Christian Maronite Church.

Chapter 1: Constructing Sectarian Geographies
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the discourses through which sectarian geographies are constructed in Beirut's peripheries. It discusses how commonly used terms like environment (bīa in Arabic) and demography can be used to depoliticize spatial policies and practices of segregation, discrimination, and fear by relegating them from realm of the political to the realm of the natural and scientific. Through an overview of the study's approach, which included patching stories and maps together with real-time data collection, this chapter engages with the methodological question of conducting research in contested spaces and violent geographies. This chapter also situates the book within the interdisciplinary fields of urban and planning studies, Middle Eastern studies, and studies on conflict urbanism and militarization. It also explains the three research sites, and theorizes the ways in which they, together, contribute to an understanding of the geographies and temporalities of the war yet to come in contested spaces.

Chapter 2: The Doubleness of Ruins
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the still visible, expansive geography of war-scarred ruins left by the civil war in Hayy Madi/Mar Mikhail, by examining the transformation of these geographies of ruins within the unfolding sectarian-political spatial conflict. The doubleness of ruins arises from their being products of both a past civil war and a present territorial war that is not so different from the civil war but that uses different tools. Through this exploration, the chapter shows how the Hayy Madi/Mar Mikhail neighborhoods have become one of the major contested frontiers, one where the Christians (through the Maronite Church) and the Shiites (through Hezbollah-affiliated real estate developers) are struggling over land locally and through global networks of finance, fundraising, and religious allegiances, and where this struggle is transforming Hayy Madi/Mar Mikhail into a sectarian frontier in times of peace.

Chapter 3: The Lacework of Zoning
chapter abstract

This chapter traces how urban planning and zoning technologies have become technologies of warfare in times of peace, transforming Sahra Choueifat, a southeastern periphery of Beirut, into a deadly frontier of contestation and violence. The territorial battle of Hezbollah and the PSP over the area through zoning policies and real estate and housing markets is resulting in what this chapter calls the lacework of zoning. This low-income periphery is now a patchwork of apartment buildings that are in the vicinity of industries that are next to one of the most active urban agricultural areas around Beirut, with severe repercussions on the everyday life of area residents. The chapter describes how areas known to be Hezbollah's spaces in Beirut are in fact produced by the continuities and discontinuities of neoliberal practices with practices of religious affiliation, sectarian constructions, service provision, resistance ideologies, and militarization.

Chapter 4: A Ballooning Frontier
chapter abstract

This chapter shows how access to development sites and individual project characteristics are resulting in the simultaneous (and competitive) ballooning of Shiite al-Dahiya and the city core (primarily Sunni west Beirut) toward Doha Aramoun, a periphery that emerged as a violent frontier in the May 2008 sectarian violence. Ballooning takes place on a variety of scales, from constructing more floors than initially permitted in a building to working behind the scenes with government agencies or religious-political organizations to bypass market mechanisms to using international aid to build infrastructure that enables the extension of sectarian patterns of urbanization. Thus, in Doha Aramoun, large-scale, nationally sanctioned building and planning projects have combined with the building-by-building efforts of Hezbollah-affiliated developers to transform a formerly marginal periphery into a prime new site for sectarian violence. In these territorial battles, minority religious groups become brokers between dominant religious groups.

Chapter 5: Planning without Development
chapter abstract

This chapter describes the genealogy of the sectarian order in Lebanon and how it came to be understood and practiced spatially. This genealogy is constructed by tracing the debates and discourses that circulated among experts in the fields of development and urban planning since the 1950s, soon after the establishment of the Lebanese post-colonial nation state. The chapter shows how, over time, urban planning was voided of its development discourses, and transformed through militias' and religious-political organizations' interventions into a collection of "innovative" exercises aimed at balancing the spatiality of a sectarian order. It illustrates how these shifts in logic coincided with global moments of anxiety around Communism, and later, political Islam, ultimately ushering in the spatial and temporal logics of the wars yet to come. It closes with a discussion on how planning experts have become the technicians of this logic.

Epilogue: Contested Futures
chapter abstract

This closing discussion of contested futures shows how the geographies and temporalities of the war yet to come are often dystopic, foreclosing the possibilities of urban politics and social change outside the sociopolitical order of political difference. At the same time, it shows that hope for change lies in the continuously shifting and contested spatialities of the sectarian order. It also explains this study's relevance beyond Beirut, discussing the implications of the findings for urban studies research in cities across the Global South and Global North. By contending that the urban futures of all cities are being contested, this chapter argues that while the logic of anticipated wars is particular to cities like Beirut, many other cities are governed, regulated, and contested by the logics of conflicts that are yet to come, driven by terror, gun violence, and climate change.