Violence and the City in the Modern Middle East
Edited by Nelida Fuccaro


Contents and Abstracts
1 Urban Life and Questions of Violence  Nelida Fuccaro
chapter abstract

Drawing on theoretical, regional, and cross-regional literature on cities and violence this chapter argues for the salience of urban violence in the study of the early modern, modern, and contemporary Middle East. It explores methodological, conceptual and ethical issues from a variety of perspectives. It examines violence and the city as objects of academic knowledge in combination with each other and with analytical categories such as power, space/place, language, and modernity, highlighting the protean nature of violence both as a productive and a destructive force. This chapter also brings attention to specific themes emerging from historiographies on Europe, Asia, and Africa and their relevance to the study of urban violence in the context of the Middle East. It also introduces the contents of the volume, and sketches urban geographies and experiences of violence using examples from the region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

2 The Semantics of Violence and Space  Rasmus Christian Elling
chapter abstract

This chapter explores how urban histories of violence are reflected in language, whether in piercing words and clear images or in distorted allegories and muted allusions. It explores the intersection between the semantic categories of 'space' and 'violence' drawing on methodological issues emerging from the case studies presented in this volume, and on relevant theoretical literature. The chapter discusses the fluid and sometimes controversial boundaries between vocabularies employed in the historical sources and those used in historical research; between language about violence and language as violence; and between the numerous languages in which the historians in this volume have conducted their research.

3 Elite Conflict and the Urban Environment: Eighteenth-Century Cairo  James E. Baldwin
chapter abstract

This chapter explores the violent factional conflicts fought by the Ottoman political elites in the city's streets. Drawing on narratives of violent conflict in eighteenth-century chronicles, the chapter suggests that this violence was constrained by norms and values that were informed by notions of personal honor, courage, and manliness, and by a conception of justice focusing on the daily needs of ordinary Cairenes. The chapter explores the operation of these norms with respect to the impact of violence on the urban environment, including private homes, public spaces, and infrastructure.

4 Urban Space and Prestige: When Festivals Turned Violent in Jeddah, 1880s-1960s  Ulrike Freitag
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses a traditional dance, the mizmar, as a locus of young male sociability and quarter mobilization in Jeddah. Besides entertainment, it served the purpose of territorial demarcation within the city and could turn into a violent confrontation, notably between quarters. With the monopolization of violence by the nascent Saudi state and with urban growth and change, the dance became folklorized and lost its social function in urban politics.

5 Citizenship Rights and Semantics of Colonial Power and Resistance: Haifa, Jaffa, and Nablus, 1931-1933  Lauren Banko
chapter abstract

Historians have studied acts of violence in Mandate Palestine in strictly nationalist, communal, or, in the case of the Arabs, anti-Zionist, terms. This chapter approaches specific episodes of urban unrest in the early 1930s as the first example of a shift from nonviolent to violent opposition against the British administration's disregard for the civil and political rights of the Arab population. Taking into consideration Haifa, Jaffa, and Nablus as politically-networked urban centers and focusing on citizenship rights, the chapter shows how this transformation in tactics occurred in the crucial years of urbanization that transformed the political socialization of urban residents leading to the emergence of new civic associations. The chapter also analyses the language of resistance to colonial authority used in the Arab press and that of colonial repression, the latter particularly after the 1933 riots in Jaffa.

6 Challenging the Ottoman Pax Urbana: Intercommunal Clashes in 1857 Tunis  Nora Lafi
chapter abstract

In 1857 the city of Tunis witnessed the first anti-Jewish riots in Tunisian history. These events marked the end of the communal balance that had until then characterized the Ottoman pax urbana under the old regime, and took place in the context of the difficult implementation of Ottoman reform in the province of Tunisia, and of the growing influence of European consuls in urban and provincial affairs. This chapter analyzes the various logics that led to the outbreak of communal strife: the instrumentalization of popular violence by different urban factions; the influence of state violence on popular will; and the link between a novel form of resentment against the Jewish community and the ambiguous actions of European consuls who held increasingly evident colonial views of and ambitions over local society.

7 A Tamed Urban Revolution: Saudi Arabia's Oil Conurbation and the 1967 Riots  Claudia Ghawri
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses the riots that occurred during the Six-Day War in June 1967 in the newly-urbanized centers of oil production in Saudi Arabia. It refutes the widely accepted idea that the partly violent protests by oil workers and the local population were a spontaneous and somewhat irrational expression of anti-American sentiment. In the spirit of Henri Lefebvre's famous concept of the "urban revolution," this chapter recognizes recurrent social tensions and everyday violence in the oil conurbation as the reasons for urban conflict. It argues that while the Arab war effort against Israel surely triggered local reactions, the intensity of the protests, their location, and the targets of the protesters were determined by this urban problematic and orchestrated by the Saudi authorities who wanted to prevent the expansion of local unrest.

8 Making and Unmaking Spaces of Security:Basra as Battlefront, Basra Insurgent(1980–1991)  Dina Rizk Khoury
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the impact of the Iran-Iraq and First Gulf wars on the spatial organization of Basra between 1980 and 1991. It argues that the Iraqi military, security, and Ba'th Party turned Basra and its surrounding towns into spaces of security. This process of securitization took place through the deployment of spatial strategies that included surveillance, documentation, control, and extra-judicial violence. The security practices of the party, military, and security organizations, and the social and spatial dislocation created by the chaotic withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait shaped rebels' patterns of participation and the targets of their violence during the 1991 popular uprising at the end of the First Gulf war. Thus, the chapter explores the links between the sustained violence of the wars and the episodic violence of the 1991 uprising.

9 A Patriotic Uprising: Baghdadi Jews and the Wathba  Orit Bashkin
chapter abstract

This chapter deals with the participation of Jews in the Wathba, a wave of grassroots demonstrations that occurred in Baghdad during the winter of 1948. Students, workers, the middle classes, and the urban poor took to the streets demanding liberty, fair distribution of state resources, social justice, and an end to British intervention in Iraqi politics. These events are used to reflect on how Baghdadi Jews interacted with urban space and the urban sphere, informing their political choices, relationship with Iraqi Muslims, and their identity politics. It argues that participation in the Wathba, and in the ceremonies commemorating its martyrs, gave Baghdadi Jews an opportunity to perform their nationalism and patriotism at a time when the state gradually equated every Jew with a Zionist. The Wathba created a sense of community from below, a moment of patriotism and heroism which was silenced by Zionist and Arab nationalist historiography.

10 Dissecting Moments of Unrest: Twenty-Century Kirkuk  Nelida Fuccaro
chapter abstract

Drawing on literature on Indian communalism, this chapter dissects two episodes of civil unrest that took place in Kirkuk in 1924 and 1959 in order to bring into focus some constitutive elements of state and popular violence during the Hashemite monarchy. It considers a variety of actors and historical factors: the city's communities, military, and police forces; British colonialism and the oil industry. Urban space is analyzed as a place of conflict, state repression, and communal memory, taking into consideration the role played by different languages of violence and on violence in causing bloodshed, and in mediating its interpretations. The chapter also draws attention to the long-term symbiosis between state discipline, communal conflict, and the restoration of order. The aim is to provide an alternative and more nuanced reading of the long-term conflict between Turkmens and Kurds which has been interpreted as an expression of ethno-nationalist confrontation.

11 War of Clubs: Struggle for Space in Abadan and the 1946 Oil Strike  Rasmus Christian Elling
chapter abstract

This chapter challenges simplistic representations of the intercommunal violence that took place during the 1946 oil strike in Abadan, in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, as rooted either in primordial ethnic hatred or in an imperialist plot. The chapter reconstructs in detail several days of tensions and clashes, and places them within a historical context of coercive industrial urban development, labor activism, ethnic mobilization and global politics. Using oil company records, national archives and personal accounts, the focus of the analysis is the socio-spatial unit of the club as a place for socialization, a site of strife in the life of an oil city, and as a key political space with significance in the evolution of the modern Iranian nation state.

12 Urban Rupture: A Fire, Two Hotels, and the Transformation of Cairo  Yasser Elsheshtawy
chapter abstract

This chapter seeks to spatialize the construct of urban violence by examining how one particular event — the great Cairo fire —led to the reconfiguration of the city's downtown space and to a shift in Cairo's planning paradigm. Two hotels, Shepheard's and the Nile Hilton, are used as case studies to illustrate these trends. Both are analyzed as symbols of a prevailing socio-political order. The destruction of the former in 1952 and the construction of the latter in the following years are discussed within the overall framework of urban violence. Both of these buildings reveal a specific moment in Cairo's history in which the past was cast aside, removed, and destroyed, and in its place a new vision was promulgated aimed squarely at engaging Cairo and in turn Egypt with the wider world. It argues that Cairo's twentieth-century urban development can be read through these two incidents.