Accepted Paper:

The city, the sea and the future: private interest and public good along the Beiruti coast  

Author:

Alice Stefanelli (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Peripheries are a site of creative re-elaboration of notions of the public, based on resistance to their privatisation. Analysis of civic campaigning in Beirut shows that here new, inhabitant-centred visions of the city are being formulated in dialogue with as well as in reaction to hegemonic discourses.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the dynamic dialectic between centre and periphery in contexts of growing inequality. It does so by drawing upon evidence gathered through ethnographic fieldwork amongst a small but diverse civic coalition campaigning for the protection of Beirut's coast from privatisation.

I propose that within the context of increasingly unequal cities, peripheries may be seen as not only geographically or socially marginalised spaces. Instead, they can be understood as spaces that have not yet been subjugated by the exclusionary processes that progressively enfold previously marginalised areas through privatisation and luxurification within an overarching project of social cleansing of the city.

Analysis of the Coalition's practices and discourse suggests that peripheries under attack become symbolic as well as actual spaces where inhabitants are able to re-articulate their attachments and claims to the city in a language that contradicts and bypasses the dominant discourses based on private property and ownership rights. What emerges rather is the notion of respect for the collective public interest, particularly inhabitants' ability to enjoy a city which is hospitable and accommodates their enduring presence and livability needs. Central to their activity is a move towards the symbolic centre of the city, by pressurising public authorities to protect the urban public's interest against that of private subjects.

I contend that peripheries should not be seen exclusively as spaces of marginalisation but also as loci of public and collective re-imagination of the city at large for a range of urban actors whose permanence in the city is increasingly threatened.

Panel P090
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city