Contribution to the book War Diaries: Design After the Destruction of Art and Architecture.

Reconstruction as Violence in Syria

An edited volume with Nasser Rabbat (MIT) that is an outcome from a conference held at MIT in 2019. The book is currently being revised following peer-review and is due to be published by the American University in Cairo Press in 2024.

After decades of geography and area studies drifting apart, I argue there has been an area studies turn in geography. The long divergence between the two, however, has resulted in a certain misunderstanding by geographers of what area studies scholarship is and what this field can contribute to the discipline. Area studies should not be considered as an approach that merely concentrates on the representation of difference but rather as a milieu in which difference is practiced and geographical concepts can be ‘diffracted’. Area studies can offer geography new ways to think about its place in, and entanglement with, the world.
Focuses on the urban spatial dynamics of the mass protest movements that have convulsed the Arab region since December 2010. The volume shifts attention away from public squares — and in particular Tahrir Square in Cairo — to consider the broader urban context in which the uprisings unfolded and how it has intersected with the events themselves. The essays are topically and geographically diverse, exploring a range of sociospatial phenomena in countries that have been at the heart of the Arab uprisings as well as those countries that have appeared peripheral to the regional upheaval. This breadth of perspective highlights the centrality of space and spatial concerns to the ongoing political transformations in the region. In this way, the volume provides a distinctive — and critical — analysis of one of the most signi cant political events of our time.
Urbicide and the Arrangement of Violence in Syria
The concept of urbicide can be broadly understood as the deliberate destruction of the built environment. It is among the central analytics through which contemporary work in political geography has sought to move beyond the idea that such destruction results simply from the evil inherent in conflict. As Martin Coward has observed, the term has been deployed to resist placing the large-scale destruction of the built environment into the “conceptual dustbin” of “wanton destruction” (Coward 2009: 23). I argue that urbicide is the violent imposition of, or struggle for, urban arrangements meant to fix a given urban environment into a homogenized ethnic and/or political enclave.

Inspired by Gaza's inhabitants, this book builds on the positive capabilities of Gazans. It brings together environmentalists, planners, activists, and scholars from Palestine and Israel, the US, the UK, India, and elsewhere to create hopeful interventions that imagine a better place for Gazans and Palestinians. Open Gaza engages the Gaza Strip within and beyond the logics of siege and warfare, it considers how life can be improved inside the limitations imposed by the Israeli blockade, and outside the idiocy of violence and warfare.


In this thesis, I argue that the corporation is far more than a mere business enterprise and is in fact one of the most important apparatuses in the organization of our socio-spatial relations. Drawing on work in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Geography, I consider the process of capitalization, which is central to how the corporation organizes its operations. Capitalization represents the present value of a future stream of earnings. I argue that capitalization is now central to the urbanization process and that the urban fabric has provided the corporation with a durable structure to guarantee a stream of income. Capitalized urbanization, I contend, is the building of a certain future into the urban present - also understood as the extension of time (the future) through the concentration of space (urbanization). It is therefore not only an economic proposition but one that necessitates broader socio-political and spatial control.

Urban Violence in War and Peace: Lebanon's Reconstructions

This paper reconceptualises the idea of reconstruction as something that happens in the aftermath of conflict. It traces how the construction of the built environment can also be part of conflict. In so doing, this essay illuminates how in Lebanon the reconstruction process was embedded within the dynamics of the Civil War and one that also exceeds it. The reconstruction was not a process that emerged in the aftermath of the conflict but fully embedded within it. Lebanon’s reconstruction involved the consolidation of social power by a narrow elite and urban violence in both periods of open conflict and peace. 

Introduction to MERIP issue "Cities Lost and Remade"

The Middle East is one of the most urbanized and urbanizing regions in the world. The proliferation of urban megaprojects, skyscrapers, gated communities, retail malls, airports, ports and highways continues unabated. From 2006 to 2016, cement production almost doubled in the region’s major cement producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia (from 27 to 61 million tons), Egypt (29 to 55 million) and Turkey (47 to 77 million). [1] The majority of production is aimed at domestic markets. Saudi Arabia from 2008 to 2016 even banned the export of cement to ensure lower domestic prices for the government’s large infrastructure projects.
Through tracing the occupied body at an extreme moment of violence, we argue that suicide attacks within the Palestinian-Israeli context can be understood beyond the binaries of an act of futile self-destruction or a heroic act of resistance. We view them as an act located in the space in-between resistance and submission. Moreover, this chapter contributes to theoretical understandings of embodied space and pollution. Specifically, we detail the ability of the body to pollute, symbolically and materially, and to communicate beyond its integral unit.
In the Presence of Absence: The Arab Uprisings
In this chapter I ask, what are the Arab uprisings? I contend that we do not have a firm understanding of the Arab uprisings and that without this comprehension it appears premature to declare their end. In addressing why the Arab uprisings emerged a number of scholars have focused on questions related to the political economy of the region. Critical scholars have been attentive to the calls for bread, freedom and social justice and have argued that it was the inability to live a dignified life that drove the peoples of the Arab world to protest. I focus on this inability to live a dignified life and turn to the concept of absence to think through this moment more carefully. Absence, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a state or condition in which something expected or wanted is not present or does not exist. The Arab uprisings, I argue, were first and foremost about a response to absence and principally an absence of justice. In explaining the Arab uprisings through the concept of absence I turn to the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and his seminal text In the Presence of Absence. For Darwish absence is not the opposite of presence, he pushes beyond polarities in his writing: He searches for comprehensions of life that do not render it the opposite of death and beginnings that are not framed in opposition to ends. Through the work of Darwish, I argue that the Arab uprisings are not a beginning but an intensification of the prolonged and episodic endeavor to establish the ability to live a dignified life.

2012 - Current
The Arab Center for Architecture (ACA): Interview with George Arbid

September 29th, 2015

Constellations: Searching for the Global Suburb

November 20th, 2013

Beware of Small Cities

September 6th, 2012

Urbanism and the Arab Uprising: Downtown Cairo and the fall of Mubarak
[Translated into Arabic]

August 6th [September 6th] 2012

The End(s) of Stability

May 8th, 2012
Spring 2013
Review essay on:
Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
by David Harvey
Dubai: The City as Corporation
by Ahmed Kanna