Between a refuge and a battleground. Beirut’s discrepant cosmopolitanisms

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Abstract

Beirut has experienced cosmopolitanism and its opposite. It is a site of multicultural encounters and communal entrenchment: a refuge and a battleground. How and where does Beirut's cosmopolitan project turn into violence? The notion of “discrepant cosmopolitanism” provides two answers, blurring accepted distinctions between multicultural openness and communitarian entrenchment. First, openness and closure are not opposed but part of discrepant cosmopolitanisms immanent in urban space. Second, these discrepant cosmopolitanisms originate in Lebanon's encounter with colonial modernity. The making of the Lebanese nation-state has revolved around the sectarian spatiality of the ta'ifa (religious community), which produced contested but coexisting discourses and practices of rivalry and harmony. The rise of Beirut's international hotels in the 1960s, their destruction, and their role in contemporary urban redevelopment are treated here as embodiments of discrepant cosmopolitanisms. Within Beirut's recurrent tensions, a renegotiation of its cosmopolitan project could stem from a different relationship between the urban and national policies.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316–336
Number of pages21
JournalThe Geographical Review
Volume102
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Beirut, colonialism, cosmopolitanism, urbicide, hotels