Palestinian rap, political contents and artistic explorations
In Gaza, Ramallah and Nablus, and in Lebanon, Jordan, Israeli towns and East Jerusalem, for the past decade, rap bands and singers have grown out of the fertile soil of the new Palestinian generations. By combining entertainment with the ethics of protest, rap songs have become a powerful means to broadcast political and social messages that translate in artistic terms the contemporary experience of a segment of the Palestinian youth, and of young Arabs in general.
‘There’s nothing to do in al-Karak!’ You hear this litany time and again from young people who dream enviously of the bright lights of the capital, with its high-tech cafés and chic restaurants. Here, far from Amman, in the villages and housing developments worn away by the dust of the bordering desert, entertainment consists primarily of watching TV – it is switched off only when guests are received – and in interminable visiting, from house to house, between neighbours, relatives and friends. It is on these occasions that the learning of a subtle knowledge takes place. It is a knowledge that is both knowing a skill (savoir-faire) and knowing how to be (savoir-être); it means listening, to the point where one knows them by heart, to the sawalif, the anecdotes about particular persons that mark out the network of associates and relatives as allies, Christian and Muslim, among the Karaki tribes; conforming properly to obligations to provide hospitality; and learning, along the way, how to ‘hold yourself’ and speak well.
In early 2011, in Sana’a, as in other large cities of Yemen, contentious mobilisations calling for the departure of President Ali Abdallah Saleh quickly took the form of permanent occupations of public space. Sit-ins and revolutionary camps/squares were established, some of which lasted until April 2013, well beyond Saleh’s formal resignation in February 2012. Street art, which its protagonists define as the use of various artistic techniques on and in public space without prior authorisation, fed on the Yemeni revolutionary context and contributed to visually translating political demands much like photography or painting. Each of these artistic practices was nevertheless more or less subject to experimentation. Gradually, contentious street art transformed the walls of Sana’a into a centre of interest that mixed playful, artistic and political practices. A turning point for this transformation took place in March 2012 at the crossroads of Zubayri and Da’iri streets in Sana’a, when following the initiative of a young artist named Murad Subay, painters, amateurs and ordinary citizens joined the project of painting the walls of their streets. In this chapter I will explore how walls came to speak, telling stories that intersect leisure, artistic professionalisation and political commitment.
Chapter 4 explains the collapse in Liberal Democrat support during its period in coalition government. It examines how the legacy of coalition laid bare the political and electoral vulnerabilities which the party ignored in 2010. One goal of the chapter is to put to bed competing explanations for the party’s electoral meltdown. It shows how entering coalition betrayed a significant part of its 2010 vote and how these voters left the party immediately and did not return. Within 12 months of the party entering coalition, the Liberal Democrats’ voters had been reduced to a small number of enduring partisans. Policy u-turns and support for harsher austerity did not drive this mass exodus but reinforced the betrayal and rubber stamped the prospect of no return. The chapter shows how the Liberal Democrats, as the junior coalition partner, got little or no credit for positive government policy initiatives and how the decision to spread themselves thinly across government departments undermined their ability to carve out a distinct identity. The chapter exposes how the Liberal Democrats were ill-equipped electorally to cope with a backlash from voters and how their reliance on a volatile and unstable coalition of voters proved to be the party’s Achilles’ heel in 2015. Lastly, it examines how the coalition legacy and subsequent collapse exacerbated the perennial ‘credibility gap’ problem. Decades of hard work had been undone in a few years, with voters across the political spectrum seemingly less willing to lend the party their vote not only in 2015 but also in subsequent elections.
Urban transformations, mnemonic spaces and socio- temporal practices
This chapter examines the palimpsest of violence that has imprinted Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, for a protracted time period. The palimpsest is used as an investigative tool to unravel the spatiotemporal, interlocking layers of violence. Beirut’s geopolitical position and form of government, along with its history of embedded differences, have resulted in perpetual turmoil, which in 1975 led to the outbreak of the civil war. This fifteen-year long war left tangible and intangible violence markers. On the one hand, the markers manifested at different scales including Greater Beirut, administrative Beirut, but also its districts, sectors, neighbourhoods, streets and buildings. On the other hand, violence scars resurface through collective memory and postmemory, which affect residents’ daily lives while navigating through the city, and making choices of where and how to move. This chapter is an attempt at linking spatiotemporally the violence markers, to investigate their role in Beirut’s history as well as present. It uses chronological mapping of violence events, places and narratives. The violence markers resulted in, or are reflected by, divides and frontiers; urban dynamics including population displacement, destruction and expansion; memories and memorials. The chapter concludes with possibilities for dissociating from violence by emancipating from postmemories, re-establishing links among divided communities through cultural and civic projects, and providing neutral platforms for dialogue. These efforts are crucial in a city where violence remains immanent.
Topographies of violence and the religious imagination in urban Brazil
There is a consensus among academics, activists and journalists that decades of urban violence in Brazil have resulted in entrenched residential segregation: whereas elites live in affluent walled enclaves and centrally located upper-class neighbourhoods, the urban poor are confined to overpopulated slums and the periphery of cities where living conditions are cramped and services lacking, and where they are subject to endless turf wars between heavily armed drug gangs, vigilantes, the army and police. It would be virtually impossible for residents to remap this spatial configuration, due to the lack of accountability of those involved in violence and their investment in its perpetuation. Following up on recent studies of urban violence which suggest that urban ecologies need to be understood as emergent, heterogeneous, context-dependent and socially constructed, this chapter challenges such static understandings of city-space in Brazil. Based on an ethnographic case study of a Catholic base community in the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, it explores how religious actors work to challenge established topographies of violence by furnishing alternative imaginaries. The chapter highlights the dynamic relationship between conceptions of space and time in structuring experiences of urban violence. Religion’s capacity for hope and remembrance reveals temporality to be a crucial axis of opposition to violence-driven processes of urban segregation, yet temporality itself is not static but co-evolves as violence becomes more entrenched.
This contribution draws on rhythmanalysis and the political economy of assemblage to provide a framework for understanding the productive spatiotemporal effects of physical violence on urban rhythms. The chapter explores how Buenaventura, Colombia's biggest port city, is transformed both by the growth in container turnover, and through recurring, spatial and temporal practices of violence. What role does violence play in the relation between trade-driven acceleration through the port, and the aquatic, tidal rhythm that historically shaped the city? The contribution mobilises the notion of disruption to analyse the frictions emerging between infrastructural nodes of acceleration, inhabitants’ movements and urban space. The author argues that while recurring violence provides urban rhythm itself, social movements may employ the temporal instrument of disruption as a means both of political articulation and transformation within the logics of accelerated accumulation and in a context marked by violent rhythms and forced mobility.
Rhythms and space-time of violence in and of the city
The epilogue interrogates the book chapters’ understanding of violence and the city. Both violence and the city seem to resist attempts towards conceptualisation. The authors’ thick empirical descriptions, however, allow to carve out temporal and spatial features of violence: In its direct, physical form, violence enacts space and shapes rhythms of life as it shrinks the experiential, emotional and agentic repertoires of victims, enforces docility and differentiates subject positions. In its organised form, violence unfolds enormous dynamics, sets people and things into motion, and accelerates movement. The immediacy, suddenness and speed of physical violence can be contrasted with the slow, indirect and gradual mode of violence’s sublimation into domination. This transformation materialises in technologies that control mobilities and direct movement (such as barriers, roadblocks and walls). Space is thereby contained and constituted as static and stable. Violence is therefore always inscribed in an urban imaginary that depicts the city as a spatially bound and distinct totality. In this reading, violence is neither taking place in the city nor is it of the city. Instead, it is generative of multiple material-time-space figurations that are assembled in different rhythms and speeds while differentiating lived experiences producing, among others, racialised and gendered bodies.
How space and time changed urban violence in Jerusalem, 1920–29
In late Ottoman Jerusalem, violence was common, but milder than in other areas of the Ottoman Empire. More importantly, it was not yet the expression of organised forces. The Ottoman order based on the Millet system produced a society defined by religious identity, however space was not segregated, rather it was shared. In 1917, the arrival of the British started and facilitated a number of transformation processes, including sectarianisation and segregation of the urban environment, changes of space, time and forms of urban violence. While the British Mandate was taking form, they altered the local situation in many ways, especially through their support of Zionism and immigration of European Jews to Palestine. Despite a limited number of options, Palestinians reacted in different ways to what they perceived as an illegitimate decision from an external power. During the Muslim Nabi Musa celebrations, Arab nationalists and Zionists confronted each other in the first example of organised national struggle in 1920. The outbreak of violence in Jerusalem in 1929 shows that space became a defining element and time functioned as a glue, linking various locations. Starting with the object of the dispute – the Western Wall – it marked a clear shift from early examples of urban violence, as space itself became a disputed object and a target. Neighbourhoods were mobilised and incidents followed the movement of people from one locality to another. The perception of time, its regulation through public clocks and the systematic spread of news became an essential part for the development of violence.
Remembering, repeating and expecting urban violence in British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies
During the 1920s the Chinese government published lists of national ‘Humiliation Days’, dedicated to the remembrance of imperialist violence in China. Events like the May 30th Shanghai incident, or the infamous ‘21 Demands’ were to be commemorated according to this calendar, which was also intended to unify the millions of Chinese people living all over the world. In the cities of British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, with their traditionally large Chinese populations, the practice of celebrating these holidays became part of the complicated framework of entangled spatial and temporal connections. The repetitive rhythm of remembering came into contact with other social or political rhythms of urban space-time, thus contributing to its constant reorganisation and transformation. The chapter investigate how the remembering of urban violence was practiced in an environment that was temporally and spatially removed from the original event. It considers how the ‘Humiliation Days’ conjured up new acts of violence or led to the expectation of violence by the governments of British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies – and as such tended to occupy all three temporal dimensions of past, present and future at once. By taking a closer look at how the contemporaries dealt with these recurring events, it is not only possible to understand the temporal and spatial roots of urban violence, but also to analyse how this specific space-time changed from year to year.