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Heterotopia after civil war : a case study on Beirut

(2012)
Author
Organization
Abstract
In this text the link between the theory of heterotopia and reality, in this case the Lebanese capital Beirut, is researched. The aim is to see if an accurate conception of the city can be constructed via heterotopia, but also to find a way to employ the concept in practice and to test its theory in general. The main text consists of three parts. A first part gives a state of affairs on heterotopia. Foucault’s original texts, in particular ‘Of Other Spaces’, are discussed in detail and a concise overview of adaptations and derivative concepts by other authors is given. Afterwards the General Theory of Heterotopia by De Cauter and Dehaene is introduced as the model used in the rest of the work. Special attention is given to the relation of heterotopia to public and private space, its ability to work as a refuge for otherness and its quality to mediate between the everyday and the abnormal. The second part contains a history of Beirut focussing on its most characteristic elements and their effects on the city’s society. First of all there is the economical laissez-faire policy that makes it an enterprising, (neo-)liberal city. But also important is the city’s diversity and its political consequences. For centuries Beirut is attracting many refugees, religions and ethnicities that must live together. From time to time this causes severe tensions with as sad climax the fifteen years long civil war form 1975 to 1990. As an illustration the spatial impact, from the modernistic urban renewal plans of the forties to the recent privatised reconstruction of the central district are critically described. These show a shattered city in which the different communities only slightly live together. In the last part this situation is studied further by locations that can be classified as heterotopic. For the private sphere the new Beirut Souks are an illustration of the neoliberal ideas prevailing in Beirut that have little respect to the general public needs and the city’s historical character. The Corniche, Beirut’s seaside walk, is one of the few truly public spaces of the city. The city’s vibrant nightlife is also assessed as it is sometimes listed to be driven by the energy of unprocessed war traumas. This point is hard to proof, but a night club such as B018 offers a valuable mediation between the war and the present – This is however much less apparent in other establishments. How the war is remembered is researched via various memorials that turn out to be mostly belonging to only one of the different communities. It lacks Beirut of neutral spaces that memorialise the past violence, although progress might be underway. In the end we can conclude that the different domains – public, private and the cultic heterotopias – are unbalanced and dependent in Beirut. This result is convergent with the general historical image of the city. The concept of heterotopia is thus a useful approach to the study of similar urban systems, although more case studies and further theoretical deepening should complement its theory.

Citation

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Chicago
Bruggeman, Dieter. 2012. “Heterotopia After Civil War : a Case Study on Beirut”. Leuven, Belgium: KU Leuven.
APA
Bruggeman, Dieter. (2012). Heterotopia after civil war : a case study on Beirut. Leuven, Belgium: KU Leuven.
Vancouver
1.
Bruggeman D. Heterotopia after civil war : a case study on Beirut. Leuven, Belgium: KU Leuven; 2012.
MLA
Bruggeman, Dieter. “Heterotopia After Civil War : a Case Study on Beirut.” 2012 : n. pag. Print.
@misc{5652530,
  abstract     = {In this text the link between the theory of heterotopia and reality, in this case the Lebanese capital Beirut, is researched. The aim is to see if an accurate conception of the city can be constructed via heterotopia, but also to find a way to employ the concept in practice and to test its theory in general. The main text consists of three parts. A first part gives a state of affairs on heterotopia. Foucault{\textquoteright}s original texts, in particular {\textquoteleft}Of Other Spaces{\textquoteright}, are discussed in detail and a concise overview of adaptations and derivative concepts by other authors is given. Afterwards the General Theory of Heterotopia by De Cauter and Dehaene is introduced as the model used in the rest of the work. Special attention is given to the relation of heterotopia to public and private space, its ability to work as a refuge for otherness and its quality to mediate between the everyday and the abnormal. The second part contains a history of Beirut focussing on its most characteristic elements and their effects on the city{\textquoteright}s society. First of all there is the economical laissez-faire policy that makes it an enterprising, (neo-)liberal city. But also important is the city{\textquoteright}s diversity and its political consequences. For centuries Beirut is attracting many refugees, religions and ethnicities that must live together. From time to time this causes severe tensions with as sad climax the fifteen years long civil war form 1975 to 1990. As an illustration the spatial impact, from the modernistic urban renewal plans of the forties to the recent privatised reconstruction of the central district are critically described. These show a shattered city in which the different communities only slightly live together.
In the last part this situation is studied further by locations that can be classified as heterotopic. For the private sphere the new Beirut Souks are an illustration of the neoliberal ideas prevailing in Beirut that have little respect to the general public needs and the city{\textquoteright}s historical character. The Corniche, Beirut{\textquoteright}s seaside walk, is one of the few truly public spaces of the city. The city{\textquoteright}s vibrant nightlife is also assessed as it is sometimes listed to be driven by the energy of unprocessed war traumas. This point is hard to proof, but a night club such as B018 offers a valuable mediation between the war and the present -- This is however much less apparent in other establishments. How the war is remembered is researched via various memorials that turn out to be mostly belonging to only one of the different communities. It lacks Beirut of neutral spaces that memorialise the past violence, although progress might be underway. In the end we can conclude that the different domains -- public, private and the cultic heterotopias -- are unbalanced and dependent in Beirut. This result is convergent with the general historical image of the city. The concept of heterotopia is thus a useful approach to the study of similar urban systems, although more case studies and further theoretical deepening should complement its theory.},
  author       = {Bruggeman, Dieter},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {136},
  publisher    = {KU Leuven},
  title        = {Heterotopia after civil war : a case study on Beirut},
  year         = {2012},
}