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


September 2018
264 pages.
from $28.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601918
Paper ISBN: 9781503605602
Digital ISBN: 9781503605619

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Winner of the 2019 Anthony Leeds Prize, sponsored by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) - Society for Urban, National, and Transnational / Global Anthropology (SUNTA) section.

Beirut is a city divided. Following the Green Line of the civil war, dividing the Christian east and the Muslim west, today hundreds of such lines dissect the city. For the residents of Beirut, urban planning could hold promise: a new spatial order could bring a peaceful future. But with unclear state structures and outsourced public processes, urban planning has instead become a contest between religious-political organizations and profit-seeking developers. Neighborhoods reproduce poverty, displacement, and urban violence.

For the War Yet to Come examines urban planning in three neighborhoods of Beirut's southeastern peripheries, revealing how these areas have been developed into frontiers of a continuing sectarian order. Hiba Bou Akar argues these neighborhoods are arranged, not in the expectation of a bright future, but according to the logic of "the war yet to come": urban planning plays on fears and differences, rumors of war, and paramilitary strategies to organize everyday life. As she shows, war in times of peace is not fought with tanks, artillery, and rifles, but involves a more mundane territorial contest for land and apartment sales, zoning and planning regulations, and infrastructure projects.

About the author

Hiba Bou Akar is Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. She has also worked as an architect and urban planner in Beirut.

"Once in a while, a book comes along that makes a field of inquiry reconsider its assumptions, categories, and vocabularies. Through elegant ethnography and nuanced theorization, Hiba Bou Akar's For the War Yet to Come gives us a new way of thinking about violence, development, modernity, and ultimately, the city. This city is not just Beirut but rather urban life everywhere."

—Ananya Roy, University of California, Los Angeles

"For the War Yet to Come upends our conventional notions of center and periphery, of local and transnational, even of war and peace. It takes courage and smarts to navigate these spaces, let alone to write about them. With daring and precision, Hiba Bou Akar proves herself to be a complete master."

—AbdouMaliq Simone, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

"How do you plan cities when the specter of war is always present? Hiba Bou Akar places 'planning' on its head to show how Beirut has developed to serve a sectarian order. Fascinating, theoretically astute, and empirically rich, For the War Yet to Come enriches our understanding of fragile cities in the Middle East and beyond."

—Asef Bayat, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"For the War Yet to Come is a feminist and postcolonial critique of a masculinized geography of urban militarism that favors the spectacular and the sublime. This vision of the city at war is blindingly technological and curiously devoid of people, as if seen from above (perhaps from a fighter jet). Bou Akar's Beirut is peopled, swirling with rumor. It is the site not of anonymized destruction but of calculated and complex construction."

—Emma Shaw Crane, Public Books

"Bou Akar is able to assess how years of sectarian warfare and conflict have turned Beirut into an arena for competing religious/political parties and groups to seize footholds and influence in the city. [Her] in-depth analysis reveals a painful reality: Beirut's urban planning reflects Lebanon's political factions' acceptance of the inevitable continuation of sectarian violence and human displacement."

—Refael Kubersky, Middle East Journal