Urban Research invites submissions on the topic of “Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings: Beyond the Square.” This special issue will explore the ways in which the urban has informed the on-going Arab uprisings. In part, it will examine how urban spatial forms and phenomena-both material and discursive-have been constitutive of the uprisings. Equally, this issue will look at what the Arab uprisings have illuminated about the urban. In this regard, we will explore the material and discursive use of urban spaces at various phases of the uprisings to see what they reveal about the urban as a distinctive socio-spatial phenomenon.
The Arab uprisings have illuminated fascinating socio-spatial dynamics and imaginative geographies in the urban context that warrant critical scholastic attention. However, the early literature on the uprisings focused largely on the role played by social media as an aspatial force of social organization that determined the trajectory of events. In response, subsequent scholarship has argued for the centrality of physical spaces–particularly the square–to our understanding of events on the ground. But neither body of scholarship has yet contended with the broader urban histories and social contexts in which events have been unfolding and the ways in which they intersect with the uprisings. Furthermore, to understand these events and the continued unrest in the region, it is critical to take account of urban spaces and processes beyond the square. This special issue proposes to redress this gap in the research.
Particular questions that this special issue will address include:
- What role have physical spaces outside the public square of the metropolis played in the Arab uprisings?
- What have the uprisings told us about how urban areas are linked or not? Have certain connections between spaces/places been forged or broken as a result of the recent political upheaval?
- What novel constellations of power, knowledge, and imaginative geographies have emerged in relation to the use of urban space during the uprisings?
- What do the Arab uprisings tell us about the tensions between social classes, religion, and ethnicity at the urban level?
This special issue will be organized around the following themes:
Connection and Disconnection: An examination of the connections and/or disconnections across the broader physical spaces in which the Arab uprisings have unfolded has important implications for our understandings of the urban, as well as the sub- and supra-geographical scales. The movement of protesters, images, and information throughout the Arab uprisings has articulated new connections and revealed previously submerged ones. Questions explored in this section will include: What implications do the Arab uprisings have for theoretical formations of geographic scale? How have spaces relevant to the uprisings articulated–practically and/or discursively–with other spaces? What have the uprisings told us about how urban areas are linked or not? What are the structures, meaning and consequences of these links? Have certain connections between spaces/places been forged or broken as a result of the recent political upheaval?
Suburbanisms and Small Cities: On 17 December 2010, Muhammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation precipitated protests that spread throughout Tunisia and then the region. Bouazizi’s protest suicide took place more than 265 kilometres south of the capital in the small city of Sidi Bouzid. Spaces beyond the public squares and the centre of the city have been crucial to the on-going Arab uprisings but remain almost invisible in discourses surrounding them. Questions examined in this section will include: What role have physical spaces outside the public square of the metropolis played in relation to the Arab uprisings? What impact has the rapid suburbanisation occurring throughout the region–including the rise of gated communities and processes of gentrification–had in relation to the protests? Have the uprisings impacted notions of what constitutes the urban, rural-urban, urban-suburban and/or their relations to each other?
Laboratory: The Arab uprisings have entailed a dramatic alteration in the use of urban space. Both protesters and the state have utilized the urban fabric in novel ways to achieve their respective goals. In the context of the uprisings themselves, this has been manifested in various ways, including the performative, be it self-immolation or protest; artistic and discursive, including street art, urban literature, and music; social organization, such as the rise of neighbourhood security and organising around access to basic urban utilities; and security/fear, for example, the construction of walls by the state. The uprisings have also generated new uses of urban space in the aftermath of regime change, among them, locally organized infrastructure, gentrification/beautification, and development projects. Questions focused loosely around these processes will include: How have the Arab uprisings generated new ideas about the use of urban space? How has the construction and/or reconstruction of urban spaces occurred and how have these processes facilitated hegemony and/or resistance in ways that informed the uprisings? How have actors sought to organise, disrupt and/or resist certain formations of time and space in the urban context? What novel constellations of power, knowledge and imaginative geographies have emerged in relation to the use of urban space during the uprisings? Can the Arab uprisings be understood as a demand to the right to the city?
Papers should be between 3,000-5,000 words, double-spaced, including endnotes. If you are interested please submit an abstract of 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 1, 2014. Final submissions will be due in early May 2014. If you would like to discuss your article before submission, please contact the special issue editors: Deen Sharp (email@example.com) and Claire Panetta (firstname.lastname@example.org).