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.
Cities have been more than simply ‘places’ of conflict. The intrinsic connection between space, time and violence in cities is the main theme of this volume. This introduction develops the notion of space-time, which, we argue, helps us analyse violence in ways that make prominent the intertwinement of spatial and temporal aspects in the urban context. (Re-)shaping or even fundamentally transforming space, violence can produce urban segregations or create frontiers, but it can also trigger accelerations of movement and simultaneously slow down daily rhythms of life, causing immobility or containment. The spatial configuration of a city and its rhythms also produce and shape violence in distinct ways. A spatiotemporal perspective makes visible the translocal networks and global dynamics that may link urban violence to a faraway ‘elsewhere’, and the temporal connections that foreground both the (disrupted) rhythms of everyday practices, and the longer-term processes violence is embedded in (i.e. in memories of violence). Discussing and revising literatures from different academic disciplines on space, time, violence and the city, the introduction argues for a processual understanding of the urban, rather than seeing ‘the city’ simply as the backdrop to or environment of violent practices or an imaginary of contemporary ‘violent cities’.
Hindu nationalist violence and subterranean agency in Ahmedabad
With the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, then-chief minister Narendra Modi oversaw Independent India’s single most damaging episode of Hindu–Muslim violence to date. The pogrom also marked the Hindu Right’s most recent return to the historical riot system that transformed Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s de facto capital, into India’s most “ghettoised” city. The pogrom, however, did not bring an end to the Hindu Right’s orchestration of violence in Ahmedabad. The Modi government seized control over the implementation of the Sabarmati Riverfront Project before the blood and dust of the pogrom could settle, which provoked the violent eviction of over 40,000 lower-caste Hindu and Muslim day laborers from the heart of the city. This chapter retraces the lives and movements of the Sabarmati’s inhabitants from the 1920s to the present. It thereby reveals how the unruly practices of Muslim intermediaries at the riverbed consistently brought them into the crosshairs of the different ‘violences’ that coalesced in the making of Ahmedabad’s segregated social order. By highlighting their historical and ongoing responses to these cascading forms of violence, this chapter exposes the hidden spatiotemporal connections between the forms of violence that have animated the Hindu Right’s hegemonic project in Gujarat. In so doing, it helps identify unexpected articulations of Muslim agency that could undermine this hegemonic project as Modi and the BJP extend Gujarat’s violent spatiotemporal relations across India at large.
Collective actions, fears and violently contested space-time regimes in Hamburg and Seattle (c. 1916–20)
This chapter studies collective actions and social movements, social fears, perceptions of the state, and of its monopoly of physical force (c. 1916–20). First, in Hamburg, an urban social movement tried to establish a space-time regime organised around public democracy, rooted in working-class neighbourhoods and on the shop floor. Publicly employed acts of physical violence served to communicate elements of the newly established space-time regime to the local public. Second, the middle classes in Hamburg and in Seattle were shaken by a plethora of fears ignited by the Russian Revolution of 1917. In Germany, however, revolution and regime change made it much easier to name those deemed responsible for ending the Kaiserreich (social democrats, Spartacists). In the USA, a complex imaginary of nearly omnipresent fears focused on innumerable vaguely defined threats shaped the impression that a revolution could be triggered by any event which was defined as not ‘normal’ – as un-American. This socially deep-rooted fear-driven dramatisation, however, had a pacifying consequence: the Seattle General Strike clearly showed that even in the USA there is no inbuilt tendency for strikes in urban settings to always escalate into violent confrontations. While in Seattle massive fears of an uncontrollable revolution led all parties involved in the General Strike to act very cautiously, in Hamburg the activists of the urban social movement through their collective actions, third, challenged the legitimacy of the newly established uniformed security forces. Re-establishing an accepted monopoly of physical force was a key problem for the early Weimar Republic.
This edited volume discusses the topic of urban violence from a new spatiotemporal perspective. It is built on the idea that spatial and temporal theoretical perspectives must be combined to truly understand the particular urban quality of violence in cities. By looking at the different ways in which the spatial and temporal configurations of cities produce and shape violence, it offers important insights into the dynamics of urban violence and how it affects everyday urban spatial practices and rhythms. In this book, violence itself is characterised as a spatiotemporal practice with destructive, transformative and generative potential. Some chapters focus on how violence reconfigures spatialities and temporalities in cities in the long term, changing the physical and social space as well the rhythms of a city. Others concentrate on memories and imaginations of violence that are imbued in the city-space, often in several temporal layers, and can lead to new violence by politicised practices of commemoration. The novel spatiotemporal perspective is applied by authors from different academic disciplines in nine case studies based on original material generated by ethnographic field research and the study of archival sources. The chapters cover cities in different world regions and historical phases, also offering translocal and transregional perspectives. With this approach, the book challenges assumed binaries of cities in the global north and south and contests the alleged difference between violence in the past and in the present.