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Urban Violence in the Middle East: Between Empire and Nation State

Organized by Nora Lafi (ZMO) and Claudia Schröder (ZMO)

The panel seeks to explore the changes and continuities in the nature of urban violence in the Middle East in the 19th and the 20th centuries, the interaction between the local, regional and international contexts in defining patterns of localised conflict in cities, and the relationship between individual or collective identities on the one hand and urban space on the other.
Our aim is also to reflect on methodological and interpretative issues in order to contribute to debates about the nature of violence in the societies of the Ottoman Empire and the Arab world and in the new geopolitical panorama that emerged after the fall of Middle Eastern imperial systems. We seek to initiate a comparative discussion of the history of urban violence in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries as the manifestation of power relations and struggles which on the one hand are embedded in the social, political and spatial orders of cities and on the other are linked to wider processes of state society/relations, urban governance, urbanisation, modernisation and deep transformation of the geopolitical panorama.
By analysing a variety of episodes, actors and recipients of violence in a set of cities the presentations shall focus on key contexts of violent public engagement and on their interrelationships. The case studies are expected to explore the meaning, relevance and impact of violence on urban polities and societies as the expression of plural political consciousness; as a language of political and social communication; as a form of collective ‘representation’ of and resistance to coercion as well as a mirror image of how states, urban elites and administrations view their relationship with subjects, citizens and urban residents at particular historical junctures. On a more immediate urban level the presentations shall also investigate how specific episodes and forms of public violence relate to wider processes of urbanisation, industrialization and geopolitical changes at the regional and global scales. More specifically they ask how violent activities are linked to the transformation of the physical, political and/or demographic landscape of the city.

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