Spatial Struggles in a City Square

Spatial Struggles in a City Square: The Post-Post Era of Beirut

Aseel Sawhala

The completion of rebuilding Beirut’s Central district did not mark the end the state emergency associated with the war. Although designed and promoted as a symbol of making the end of the war, and return to normalcy, the very site of the reconstruction project became a contested site among warring Lebanese groups.  In this talk I narrate a sequence of events in the downtown area, where thousands occupied the ‘’semi-queasy” public site, Beirut’s Central District, and especially a public square within that site, Martyr’s Square which became the vortex of recent political conflict. The public square served large masses of people to gather and voice political concerns. But the Downtown and the Martyr’s Square in particular carry a strong symbolic resonance, drawing from layers of associations: the memories of the thriving scene before the war, the bombed-out state of decimation at the end of the war, and the promise of national stability and international importance in the reconstruction. The struggles that occur in the downtown are struggles for the downtown, the city, and the nation as a whole.

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