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Urban Violence in the Middle East

Urban Violence in the Middle East: Changing Cityscapes in the Transition from Empire to Nation State

Ulrike Freitag
Nelida Fuccaro
Claudia Ghrawi
Nora Lafi
Series: Space and Place
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Urban Violence in the Middle East
    Book Description:

    Covering a period from the late eighteenth century to today, this volume explores the phenomenon of urban violence in order to unveil general developments and historical specificities in a variety of Middle Eastern contexts. By situating incidents in particular processes and conflicts, the case studies seek to counter notions of a violent Middle East in order to foster a new understanding of violence beyond that of a meaningless and destructive social and political act. Contributions explore processes sparked by the transition from empires - Ottoman and Qajar, but also European - to the formation of nation states, and the resulting changes in cityscapes throughout the region.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-584-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    The editors
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book was conceived in mid-2010 as a response to a perceived gap in scholarly reflections on different forms and expressions of urban violence in the history of the Middle East from the late eighteenth until the mid-twentieth century. While urban violence has recently become a vibrant field of study in other regions, and has increasingly been understood as an extreme but not exceptional expression of political and social contention, we felt that scholarship on the Middle East differed. There, urban violence was often seen as a sign of the violent nature of the region’s societies or as an expression...

  6. Part I. Managing and Employing Violence

    • Chapter 1 Mapping and Scaling Urban Violence: The 1800 Insurrection in Cairo
      (pp. 29-51)

      The study of urban violence has become one of the most active fields of research relating to understanding the anthropological grounds of violence in general. The link between violent acts and urban space is also increasingly recognized as a crucial entry to an understanding of the general functioning of societies.¹ Studies of urban violence are developing in the context of recent theoretical elaborations on the very nature of violence, which have changed the general point of view on the question.² The influence of the work of Charles Tilly, who argues that violence, far from being an abnormal expression outside of...

    • Chapter 2 A Capital Challenge: Managing Violence and Disorders in Late Ottoman Istanbul
      (pp. 52-69)

      My chapter will address the question of violence in the Ottoman capital at the end of the nineteenth century, focusing on the perception and management of criminality and public disorders by the Ottoman state and some local actors. The reign of Abdülhamid II (1876–1909) remains infamous for its struggle against political opponents, widespread censorship and the omnipresence of spies. I argue that it was also a time that witnessed new steps in the rationalization of the approach to security issues, a process that started with the suppression of the Janissary corps and led to the constitution of police forces...

    • Chapter 3 Gendered Obscenity: Women’s Tongues, Men’s Phalluses and the State’s Fist in the Making of Urban Norm in Interwar Egypt
      (pp. 70-88)

      With the permission of the landlady, Zakiyya ʿAli Muhammad ʿAsi, a poor unemployed man started to install a kiosk to sell groceries in the open space adjacent to the landlady’s house in the city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra in 1945. The project seemed to advance well to secure a job and a source of income for the man, except that the female vegetable vendor Zakiyya al-Safti decided that the project would hinder and compete with her business. Al-Safti, her daughter and her son tried forcefully to stop the man. The noisy quarrel brought the landlady to her balcony to ask them...

  7. Part II. Symbolic Politics of Violence

    • Chapter 4 Urban Violence, the Muharram Processions and the Transformation of Iranian Urban Society: The Case of Dezful
      (pp. 91-110)

      The social history of Iranian cities has involved discussions of escalating urban violence during religious rituals; however, this study aims to unfold a more complex relationship between religious rituals and urban violence during the modern transformation in Iran. This discussion focuses on Muharram processions in the city of Dezful, a medium-sized city in the south-west of the country in Khuzestan. After providing a brief background on Muharram commemoration, the discussion explains how the Muharram processions historically channelled social tension and violence in Dezful, based on Heydari and Neʿmati divisions.

      Iranian urban society experienced a major transformation when the Pahlavi State...

    • Chapter 5 Symbolic Politics and Urban Violence in Late Ottoman Jeddah
      (pp. 111-138)

      This chapter focuses on one well-studied incident of urban violence, the attack on and the public and very cruel killing of twenty-two people in Jeddah in 1858. The event gained international prominence not only because it occurred in a major Red Sea port, Jeddah, but also because it was directed against the representatives of Western powers. Among the victims were the British vice-consul, the French consul with his wife and a good number of the resident Christian community of Turkish and Russian nationality.¹ In consequence, when the Ottoman authorities seemed slow to react, the British proceeded to shell the town,...

  8. Part III. Communal Violence and its Discontents

    • Chapter 6 The 1850 Uprising in Aleppo: Reconsidering the Explanatory Power of Sectarian Argumentations
      (pp. 141-163)

      In the middle of the nineteenth century, several cities and regions in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, such as Mount Lebanon, Aleppo, Nablus, Jeddah and Damascus, witnessed episodes of urban violence. In current scholarship, these outbursts are singled out from the cities’ wider histories of uprisings and clashes due to their apparent ‘confessional’ character. The 1850 uprising in Aleppo is one of these cases. It was triggered by the introduction of military recruitment and a new head tax by the Ottoman authorities. On 16 October 1850, hundreds of the city’s inhabitants from the eastern suburbs, particularly the quarters...

    • Chapter 7 The City as a Stage for a Violent Spectacle: The Massacres of Armenians in Istanbul in 1895–96
      (pp. 164-178)

      The cases of extreme public violence that occurred in Istanbul between autumn 1895 and summer 1896 were extraordinary and in a way unprecedented. Up to six thousand inhabitants of the city, the overwhelming majority of them Armenians, were killed, many of them in plain daylight on the streets; an unknown number were wounded, shops were looted and houses and khans were destroyed. To find a comparable case of public scenes of violence in Ottoman Istanbul with as many victims, one has to go back at least to 1826, when loyal troops suppressed the city’s Janissaries.

      Although unprecedented, the violence did...

    • Chapter 8 Transforming the Holy City: From Communal Clashes to Urban Violence, the Nebi Musa Riots in 1920
      (pp. 179-194)

      Led by General Allenby, British troops entered Jerusalem in December 1917, ending Ottoman rule and opening a new and crucial era in the history of Jerusalem and Palestine. The history of Jerusalem has traditionally been depicted as the quintessential history of conflict and strife, of ethnic and communal tensions and of incompatible national narratives and visions. The transition from Ottoman to British rule marked a dramatic and radical change in the history of the city, often described as the beginning of a period of great transformation. Looking at the riots that took place in the city in April 1920, this...

  9. Part IV. Oil Cities:: Spatiality and Violence

    • Chapter 9 On Lines and Fences: Labour, Community and Violence in an Oil City
      (pp. 197-221)

      In December 1942, unrest broke out in Abadan, arguably Iran’s first modern industrial city and home to the world’s biggest oil refinery. Two scuffles in the bazaar provoked Iranians from the Ahmadabad neighbourhood to attack Indian labourers in the ‘Indian Lines’ of the Bahmashir¹ neighbourhood. Although not as bloody or widespread as more well-studied occurrences of unrest in Abadan, I will argue that this ‘Bahmashir Incident’ is an important case that can aid in understanding the interconnectedness of oil, space and violence.

      This chapter has two aims. The first is to fill a gap in the exiting literature on Abadan...

    • Chapter 10 Reading Oil as Urban Violence: Kirkuk and Its Oil Conurbation, 1927–58
      (pp. 222-242)

      Upton Sinclair’s personification of oil as a monster of wealth suddenly gushing out of the earth in his acclaimed novelOil!introduces the reader to the sinister powers of oil both as a mineral substance and in its ability to violate the environment and human bodies. The history of the oil industry has a long pedigree as an ‘incubator’ for violence: first at the point of production — as epitomized by the destructive force of Sinclair’s oil well in early twentieth-century California and then during the process of refinement, distribution and marketing.² As a substance, commodity and industry, oil has...

    • Chapter 11 Structural and Physical Violence in Saudi Arabian Oil Towns, 1953–56
      (pp. 243-264)

      In this chapter, I will discuss the different forms of violence that occurred in the course of labour protests in Saudi Arabian oil towns between 1953 and 1956. My focus lies on the three towns of Dhahran, Ras Tanura and Abqaiq, as they shared the common character of being newly built industrial towns whose purposes were the housing of the industrial labour force and the administration of the local oil industry. The three places materialized when oil production in Saudi Arabia’s province of al-Hasa¹ first reached commercial quantities in 1938. With the end of World War II, Saudis from more...

  10. Afterword. Urban Injustice, Urban Violence and the Revolution: Reflections on Cairo
    (pp. 265-286)

    Revolutions are like deep tectonic shifts. They result from the sudden release of human energies that create a violent, seismic tidal wave of change, their energies rollicking headily towards the prevailing, dominant political powers and organizational structures – and when successful, causing their replacement in a relatively short period of time. The early signs of these impending ruptures are scattered coyly in the occasional surface eruptions or in the acceleration of motion in the various interrelated tectonic social, economic and political plates. True, the manner, form and time of these sudden, deep tectonic shifts are impossible to predict. But that...

  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 287-288)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 289-308)
  13. Index
    (pp. 309-323)