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"Mediterranean Cities in Conflict: Urban Wars, Inter-Ethnic Coalitions and the Prospects for Peaceful Coexistence in Lebanon and Israel/Palestine, 1918 to the present"

Final Report Summary - PEACEMED (Mediterranean Cities in Conflict: Urban Wars, Inter-Ethnic Coalitions and the Prospects for Peaceful Coexistence in Lebanon and Israel/Palestine, 1918 to the present)

This research aims at mapping inter-ethnic relations in contested cities in the Eastern Mediterranean by comparing urban dynamics in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. While most of the geopolitical scholarship on ethnonational conflicts in the region has focused on the territorial struggles between rival nation-states and other regional actors, this project proposes a historical anthropology of intra-urban borderlands consisting of ethnic groups sharing the same city. Political adversaries, Lebanon and Israel share nevertheless a fundamental commonality: they both politicized the Ottoman legacy of communal autonomy and religious sectarianism. Rescaling ethnic conflicts from the regional to the urban arena, this project proposes a “bottom up” analysis of the political mobilization of territoriality, identity, religion and nation. To this end, the research examines how urban space, violent conflict and national identities have been both represented and produced in contested cities since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Against the background of a century-long conflict between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements in Israel/Palestine and the sectarian struggles over political power between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, this project studies the relations between opposing community-building efforts in war-torn urban settings. Focusing on cities like Beirut and Jaffa, I historicize the problematic place they occupy in the popular, political and sociological imagination. Through ethnographic and historical analysis I show how Jewish, Muslim and Christian citizens, implicated in relations of interdependence, strive to define their respective collective identity in relation to the nation. These processes serve as a lens through which the research engages a wider set of questions in political sociology and urban anthropology regarding ethnic violence, citizenship, and identity-making as embedded in practices of “making place.”