World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


THE TERRITORIAL MANAGEMENT OF ETHNIC CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 1/2: The territorial management of ethnic conflict in the Middle East (309) - Panel

· Date: THU 22, 9.00-11.00 am

· Institution: University of Torino, University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy)

· Organizer: Marco Allegra, Anna Casaglia & Paolo Napolitano

· Language: English

· Description: While ethnic conflicts have many causes and facets, the territorial dimension represents one of the fundamental bones of contention in these situations. Since modern public authorities and collective decision-making arenas are mainly defined interritorial terms, demands by (ethnic) groups tend to focus on territorial issues at various levels. Moreover, in situations of conflict, policies oriented towards territory regulation have huge consequences on the worsening or resolution of the conflict itself, since physical space is charged with meanings that reflect power relations and becomes a tool for the construction of collective memories and social identity.
Consequently, in many situations these conflicts are fought to determine the balance between the powers of a central authority and those of a specific territorial sub-unit (through annexation, partition and secession, the granting of local autonomy or the reform of the constitutional structure of the state, etc.). Furthermore, conflicts often arise over the control of identifiable geographical spots on the ground (i.e. not mobile material, strategic, symbolic or infrastructural resources).Beside its relevance in determining the nature of the conflict, territory represents also the arena where the players confront each other, using territorial strategies and policies (i.e.: gerrymandering of jurisdictional boundaries, regulation on the movement of people and goods, urban and development planning, etc.) to advance their own agenda and/or promote different outcomes.
Our hypothesis is that the way conflicts relate to the territorial dimension, and to specific areas on a given territory, is paramount for their evolution.
The analysis of the territorial policies carried on by the players therefore represents an interesting prism through which we can observe the reciprocal influence between two related dimensions: the nature of ethnonational conflict in general and the management of single important issues - for example policy sectors (i.e.: the land law, or water management) and/or geographic areas (i.e.: the ‘divided cities’).
The Middle East offers a broad range of cases of ethnonational conflicts that are strictly connected with territorial issues. We therefore invite the submission of papers addressing the subject both through theoretical contributions and the analysis of study cases.
The range of covered by the panel includes - but is not limited to - the conflicts in Cyprus, Israel/Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. Given the panel's focus on comparative politics, the panel especially invites the submission of papers approaching the problem of territorial policies in a regional perspective; papers comparing Middle Eastern and other experiences of conflict are also most welcomed.

The first session will be opened by Scott A. Bollens’ paper on the different territorial/political approaches to managing inter-group nationalistic conflict; the paper is a comparative study considering the cities of Jerusalem, Sarajevo ad Beirut. Four other papers will explore the dynamic of territorial management of conflict in different urban contexts: Beirut (Ali el-Samad), Djibouti (Simon Imbert-Vier), Kirkuk (Measor) and Jerusalem (Rokem).

Chair: Marco Allegra (Research Fellow, University of Torino & University of Milano-Bicocca)

Discussant: Anna Casaglia (University of Milano - Bicocca)

Paper presenter: Scott A. Bollens (University of California), “Entrenching Territory: Walls, Borders, and Constitutions”
This paper investigates three different territorial/political approaches to managing inter-group nationalistic conflict. It analyzes the construction of dividing walls, the drawing of political borders, and the establishment of constitutional sharing of political power, focusing on the cases of Jerusalem, Beirut and Sarajevo. The paper ends by applying the analysis to alternative future political-territorial arrangements in Iraq, wiht a specific focus on the creation and protection of Baghdad city as a multi-ethnic capital district with special political status and territorial arrangements.

Paper presenter: John Measor (University of Montana), “The Ethnicization of Kirkuk:
Localized Autonomy and the Iraqi Federal Union”
Ethnically divided between Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, and Turkmen Iraqis, the city of Kirkuk was long considered a terrain of transnational contestation between a number of particularistic claims. This paper will examine the competition between forces of largely ethnic-based political actors, across a transnational terrain contested by governments in Istanbul, Baghdad and Irbil.

Paper presenter: Ali el-Samad (University of Montpellier), "New Logic of Territorial Decomposition in Beirut: Geopolitical Approach"
The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, on 14th of February 2005, changed the course of Lebanese politics. The rivalries between coalitions take place mainly in Beirut’s public spaces, which become areas of interventions and confrontations for the opponents. The control and appropriation of space has been an important dimension of political competition in the country. By using a geopolitical approach, the paper will expose the political and the sectarian contradictions, the new logic of territorial decomposition in Beirut and the territorial strategy of the different players.

Paper presenter: Simon Imbert-Vier (University of Aix-Marseille), "The 'barrage de Djibuti', an impossible and innovative boundary"
The paper will present the history of the wall established around the town of Djibuti in the Early 1980s, in order to control migrants'' circulation and maintain ‘ethnic’ balance in the city. The paper will describe the material, juridical, human and political conditions of the making of this infrastructure, and analyze its consequences.

Paper presenter: Jonathan Rokem (Ir Amim, Ben-Gurion University)"Toward Resolving the Planning Disparity in Jerusalem"
This paper asserts urban planning is a critical tool in designing an effective, attractive, functioning city. In Jerusalem, the system of urban planning has been used to achieve Israeli national political goals, bolstering the Israeli population and control of land in the city, and limiting the urban development of, and control of land by, the Palestinian community. In order to preserve Jerusalem as a city of two peoples, the urban planning system needs to be reoriented in order to serve the needs and interests of both the Palestinian and the Israeli communities in the city. The paper will address some of the major issues at stake in the field of urban policies, also with respect to the perspective of conflict resolution.