The urbicide of Beirut? Geopolitics and the built environment in the Lebanese civil war (1975-1976)

Sara Fregonese

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In this paper I employ critically the idea of urbicide to explore the reciprocity between geopolitical discourses and the changing materiality of cities experiencing conflict. In doing so, the paper problematises assumptions about cities newly replacing states as post-Cold war pivots of political violence. This critique operates through the example of Beirut, a city which endured conflict before the end of the Cold War and a city where the production of geopolitical meanings was multi-sited, as national, transnational and sub-national geopolitical discourses were renegotiated through the everyday urban spaces of war. Analysing the relationship between these discourses and the violence perpetrated by the militias
amidst and against Beirut’s built fabric, the paper brings a fresh empirical focus on the understudied early phases of the Lebanese civil war (1975–1976) by reading contrapuntally a number of state-based geopolitical accounts of the time on Lebanon alongside oral, written and graphic representations produced by urban militias during combat as well as in present recollections by their former members. The paper argues that urbicide is a useful concept to interpret the links between political violence and physical urban space. However, urbicide should also be employed as a theoretical and methodological tool to investigate contextually specific and multi-sited geopolitical accounts between the national and the subnational rather than as a descriptive category exclusive to post-Cold War conflicts or alluding to abstract ideas of urbanity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309
Number of pages318
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • critical geopolitics
  • urbicide
  • Beirut

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