The Egyptian military regime of Abd al-Fattah el-Sisi has announced as part of its Vision 2030 its intention to eliminate informal urban areas. The regime has identified these areas – commonly known by the Arabic term ‘ashwa’iyyat (which means haphazard) – as a threat to the nation. The Egyptian state, however, has no clear conception of what urban informality constitutes or what exactly it is eradicating. To understand how and why the state has placed urban informality as central to its politics, I contend that we have to examine the political processes through which this uncertain yet powerful concept is produced. Urban informality, I argue, is a political intervention that is always fleeting and geographically specific in an otherwise haphazard context. Haphazard urbanisation points to the complex power struggles by a range of actors, both within and beyond the state, through which the formal and informal divide can mark urban life. In a critical reading of the first major study of informality in Egypt, I show how the urban was divided into the formal and informal through outdated laws. I detail, by engaging sources in English and Arabic, how the Egyptian state militarised urban informality from the 1990s onwards. I argue that it is through this historical framing that we must understand el-Sisi’s current war against urban informality. In turn, I argue that the regime’s attempt to eliminate informality has not resulted in greater control over what and how urban informality appears but has deepened the hazardisation of urban life.


The Gaza Strip is one of the most beleaguered environments on earth. Crammed into a space of 139 square miles (360 square kilometers), 1.8 million people live under an Israeli siege, enforcing conditions that continue to plummet to ever more unimaginable depths of degradation and despair. Gaza, however, is more than an endless encyclopedia of depressing statistics. It is also a place of fortitude, resistance, and imagination; a context in which inhabitants go to remarkable lengths to create the ordinary conditions of the everyday and to reject their exceptional status. 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.

Urban Violence in War and Peace: Lebanon's Reconstructions

In Lebanon, there has been a furious and continuing debate over how the reconstruction, with the urban development corporation Solidere at its core, has been undertaken. In the course of the 2019 protests–what many Lebanese are calling a revolution–and the economic implosion in 2020, the Solidere project that led the national reconstruction process continues to occupy a central place of contestation in the nation. For many in the country, the reconstruction that ostensibly followed the Ta’if Peace Accord has left its own scars of violence and dispossession on the country’s inhabitants. 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. 

If you look today at the skyline of downtowns throughout the Middle East and beyond, the joint- stock corporation has transformed the urban landscape. The corporation makes itself present through the proliferation of its urban mega-projects, including skyscrapers, downtown developments and gated communities; retail malls and artificial islands; airports and ports; and highways. Built into these corporate urban structures are edifices of politics, ideology and certain forms of socio-spatial and temporal organization. The corporation, however, has largely escaped critical scholarly analysis in Geography and/or Urban and Middle East Studies. 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. Through an analysis of the 19th-century French joint-stock corporation, Compagnie Impériale Ottomane de la Route Beyrouth-Damas, and Solidere the corporation that led the reconstruction of Beirut following the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1991), this thesis considers and explores the force of the corporation in assembling socio-spatial relations and certain urban futures. 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.

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.
The Man with the Golden Shoes [al-rajel du al-na'l al- dabī] (2000) is a documentary by the late Syrian director Omar Amiraley . The film provides a portrait of the former Prime Minister and architect of Lebanon’s post-war “reconstruction,” Rafik Hariri . It opens with a clip of a 10-story building in downtown Beirut collapsing from
an explosion . The building’s ruin is not by conflict but reconstruction, the planned detonation of dynamite at the structures foundation . A large cloud of dust rises from the collapsed building and the screen is engulfed in the fog of reconstruction . In Lebanon, the fogs of war and reconstruction have at times been difficult to distinguish .
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.
In Suicide and Agency Anthropological Perspectives on Self-Destruction, Personhood, and Power. Broz, Ludek and Daniel Münster, eds. London: Ashgate.
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
Arab Studies Journal
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
November 30 2012
Paper Presented: The Urban Arab Uprisings
In the wake of the 2008 explosion of the current economic crisis, more and more people are actively fighting to restore what they've lost. Not since the ‘60s have so many people across the globe taken to the streets to demand a more just and democratic society, access to housing, health care, education, food, jobs, a clean and safe environment and lives free from police violence. Most of these uprisings are rooted in the urban landscape. Many of their demands imply a major transformation in the way our cities work. During this time of crisis and mobilization, it's important that we ask ourselves: What kind of city do we want to see?

MSc Thesis: The Satanic Verses and the Danish Cartoons: “Muhammad’s Face”