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Architecture Research Group

Monograph: Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut (Bloomsbury, 2019) 

Investigating the immateriality, spatiality and temporality of the bordering practices of political and sectarian conflict.

Summary

Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut investigates the immateriality, spatiality and temporality of the bordering practices of political and sectarian conflict.

The book is a practice-led research project that employs art processes including interviews, documentations and media representations to work with residents and negotiate the border conditions of: administration, surveillance, sound and displacement. It proposes a method of negotiating; one that considers how artistic research can itself be considered as a form of a critical spatial practice and, in particular, a bordering practice – what the book terms critical bordering practice. This enables the rethinking of border positions including those between disciplines and spatial conditions, and eventually the transformation of certain borders particularly the divisive position of political and sectarian narratives. 

A compelling work of powerful reportage, careful analysis, and creative disruptions through which Hafeda masterfully engages the visible and invisible borders of today's cities. Taking Beirut as his landscape of intervention, the artist-author trespasses disciplinary boundaries as he navigates the distance between scholarly and everyday voices, but also the defining lines between art and social sciences, the audio-visual and the textual, the researched and the researcher, the governed and the governing, history and now, public and private realms, and more.

Mona Fawaz Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, American University of Beirut, co-author of Beirut: Mapping Security, IBAR, 2009

Sewing Borders This short film worked with a group of Beirut residents with differing experiences of displacement. They studied maps of the city and of the region, and, through their sewing skills, they negotiated and narrated notions of spatial, temporal and historic borders.

The Challenges

  • Working in sites of civil political-sectarian conflict
  • Employing art and architecture processes as urban research methods to negotiate the mechanisms of conflict through working with the participants

Beirut is a city shaped by the “chronic” experience of civil war and by political-sectarian conflicts that inscribe multiple borders onto the urban space. Mohamad Hafeda has been walking in that city for a long time, looking at the way in which people narrate and negotiate those borders. He has been working with residents and connecting artistic intervention and research to their tactical practices of resistance. The result is an amazing book. Negotiating Conflict in Lebanon is a book on Beirut but it has something to offer to anybody interested in borders and border struggles also elsewhere.

Sandro Mezzadra Associate professor of Political Theory, University of Bologna, co-author with Brett Neilson of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor, Duke University Press, 2013

The Impact

The book’s significance is in its interdisciplinary methodology of working in contexts of urban conflict that attracts academics and practitioners across the fields of border studies, urbanism, media studies and art. The professor of anthropology Ghassan Hage has remarked: ‘the book is particularly useful to read for students of spatial practices from any discipline: reading it actually awakens the reader’s spatio-sensory apparatuses, and sharpens one’s appreciation of the various modes of experience pertaining to the spatial domain.’

'The question of marking territories and defining borders in the city of Beirut demands not only a distinct and complex approach, but also a considered and enduring level of engagement. Mohamad Hafeda's volume, detailing the nuances of his current site-specific and practice-led research projects, provides not only this level of commitment, it also offers a thoroughly engaging encounter with the profound social and political processes that determine how we negotiate conflict.'

Anthony Downey Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa, Birmingham City University, editor of Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East, (2016)
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