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Volume 32.

3 September 2008 56585

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research DOI:10.1111/j.1468-2427.2008.00812.x

An Unusual Clique of City-Makers: Social Networks in the Production of a Neighborhood in Beirut (195075)

This article documents the early development of an informal settlement in Beirut (Lebanon) through the trajectories of the developers who participated in its production, looking specically at the role that social networks played in the process. Drawing primarily on the methodological approach developed by Pierre Bourdieu, my analysis reveals that social networks play a central role as conduits for developers to access the necessary housing ingredients and market securities they need to conduct their businesses. Social networks also function as accumulated capital, enabling developers to strengthen their hold over the production of housing in the neighborhood. My analysis also indicates that while some of these networks were inherited, many were built through patient investments deployed by these developers within the changing limitations of the micro (neighborhood) and macro (city-wide) contexts. Finally, the changing distribution of social networks in this neighborhood determined when and how different social agents were able to participate as developers in the production and exchange of housing. These ndings are important since they generate new insights into how (informal land) markets work, the practices of developers in this type of neighborhood, as well as the yet unstudied mechanisms of informal housing production in the Lebanese context.

Studies of informal land and housing1 have recently begun to incorporate non-economic factors in their analyses of market exchanges, reecting a general trend in the social sciences. These studies have made important contributions by shedding light on the role of informal institutions (especially social networks) in sustaining market operations, either by insuring access to the resources necessary for housing production (Pamuk, 2000; Jenkins and Smith, 2001; Smith, 2003) or by reducing the transaction costs associated with market exchanges (Razzaz, 1996; Mooya and Cloete, 2007). They have also provided insights into the practices of the actors involved in this form of housing production, especially developers who are traditionally dismissed in this literature as

Informal economic activities are activities that violate some form of state regulation (e.g. property rights, construction or zoning codes, etc.) and are hence considered illegal. The broad category of informal housing comprises the various types of illegal housing that have developed in most developing world cities, such as squatter settlements that violate property right codes, or illegal land subdivisions and/or constructions that violate construction, zoning and sometimes health codes.

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Mona Fawaz

unscrupulous proteers (Razzaz, 1998; Berner, 2001a; 2001b).2 However, the ndings of this research have often been limited, especially when researchers sought simple explanations for why developers opt to operate informally rather than formally (De Soto, 2000; Berner, 2001a) and fell back on assumptions of prot maximizing in order to explain these choices. Furthermore, many of these investigations have relied on the framework of new-institutional economics, developing instrumental representations of social institutions as tools to reduce transaction costs. The outcome is a rather narrow understanding of housing markets that rarely accounts for the myriad of historically and geographically specic factors (e.g. social institutions and practices, macro-economic and political factors, attitude of the state) that make up the social context of housing production and exchange and offers few details regarding the actual practices of land and housing developers. My research aims to provide a correction in this direction. Based on ethnographic and documentary research, I explore in this article the establishment and early development of one land and housing market in Beirut (Lebanon), over a period of 25 years (195075). My case study is the neighborhood of Hayy el-Sellom, today Lebanons largest informal settlement and home to over 100,000 residents including several generations of rural migrants, refugees displaced by military conicts in Lebanon, non-Lebanese migrant workers and others (see Figure 1). I document the trajectories of the land and housing developers who participated in the production of this neighborhood, looking specically at the role that social networks played in the process. I rely on social networks as a methodological entry point because recent research, like my eld ndings, indicates that they are central institutions on which informal (and formal) markets rely (Granovetter and Swedberg, 2001). My approach, however, diverges from the above-listed investigations since my analysis of social networks departs from the framework of new-institutional economics to draw primarily on the methodological approach developed by Pierre Bourdieu looking at social networks as hierarchical and complex relations that are geographically and historically situated, and that result from and alter the strategies of the actors who participate in their production and depend on them to sustain their practices. My research ndings conrm that, as predicted by the dominant framework, social networks are essential conduits for developers to access the necessary housing ingredients and market securities they need to conduct their businesses. More importantly, however, my ndings indicate that these social networks allow the developers engaged in this housing market to reposition themselves within the social hierarchies of the neighborhood and, by doing so, extend their control over its processes of housing production. Furthermore, these networks were in large part produced and nurtured by the efforts of those same developers who sought to institutionalize the particular social relations that empowered their control over the housing market within the changing limitations of the micro (neighborhood-level) and macro (city-wide) contexts in which they were embedded. Finally, the distribution of social networks among actors participating in the production and exchange of housing determines the opportunities for prot that the housing market creates or, in other words, who will be able to participate in this market as a developer. By distribution, I am referring to the pattern of social networks whether, for example, they are concentrated on one or a few actors who link otherwise separate groups of people or whether they are equally spread among many actors. These ndings are important since they generate new insights into how markets work in general, with special emphasis on (informal) housing markets and

2 For example, Chabbi (1998) refers to developers as pirates and Aristizabal and Ortz Gmez (2004) as experts at duping low-income families. Exceptions to this trend include Garca and Jimnez (1994) who extended Topalovs (1987) framework of investigating developers as middlemen in the housing market. Although he condemns informal developers, Chabbi (1988) develops detailed and informative social proles.
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Social networks in the production of a neighborhood in Beirut


Figure 1 Location map of Hayy el Sellom and other informal settlements in Beirut, 2008

the practices of developers in this type of neighborhood. The article also generates new insights into the yet unstudied mechanisms of informal housing production in the Lebanese context. The article is based on my dissertation work, which involved a time-longitudinal analysis of the emergence and development of a land and housing market in Hayy el-Sellom over a period of 50 years (19502000) (Fawaz, 2004). The neighborhood
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Mona Fawaz

provides an adequate context for an investigation of social networks and land markets because it was produced over several phases during which different blends of formal and informal arrangements were put in place, thus allowing an extended observation of the interaction between social networks and other institutions as well as the impacts that these institutional arrangements can have on the functioning of the housing market. Furthermore, access to housing in Hayy el-Sellom has occurred essentially through market transactions rather than non-market means (e.g. public allocation of land), making it an adequate case study to investigate the workings of informal markets and the institutions and norms that organize them. This neighborhood is also a good case study in Lebanon because it did not experience large-scale population exchanges, eviction, or demolition during the years of the civil war (197590), providing an uninterrupted development trajectory for analysis, which is unusual in the context of Beirut. Finally, in its model of production (rural to urban migrants), Hayy el-Sellom resembles the pattern of informal settlement development in many developing countries (Ward, 1982; Fernandes and Varley, 1998), as well as other Mediterranean contexts (Leontidou, 1990) in terms of rural to urban migration and proximity to industries. This allows for interesting comparisons with other cases in the abundant international literature on the subject. This is important for potentially generalizing the hypothesis and lessons learnt about the development of such neighborhoods, given the similarity of a number of factors with other contexts, such as industrialization, the process of public institution building, and increasing social polarization in the city. That said, the specicity of the Lebanese context should not be underplayed. This includes the sectarian legacy of its process of nation building, the religious divisions of its society (including access to and control of land), the very liberal public sector that was created in this country (there is almost no social welfare, for example), as well as the recurrent civil wars that have marked its recent history (1958, 19751990) (Traboulsi, 1993). Most of the data gathered for this article was collected between 1999 and 2003, when over one hundred interviews were conducted with residents of the settlement, including developers and their families. Additional interviews were conducted with public sector agents, including state-accredited topographers and engineers, notaries public, municipal employees, public sector planners and regulators, and others. Whenever possible, documents recording land and/or housing transactions were collected. A systematic questionnaire was also conducted with 300 home-owning households with the help of a neighborhood resident in order to verify the information obtained about land sales and urban regulations. These interviews were complemented with archival searches in several public agencies, looking at records of building permits, lot subdivisions, and available correspondence between the Municipality and lot owners. Before moving to the description of this case study, the next section develops the theoretical framework in which the research was conducted.

Theoretical review and methodological approach

Social networks in housing production and exchange

The role of social networks in sustaining the production of informal housing was acclaimed as early as the 1970s by John Turner who argued that in these settlements, housing production relies on housing networks that ensure an efcient and user-adapted model of housing acquisition for low-income dwellers, in contrast to public housing that responds poorly to their economic, social and cultural needs (Turner and Fitcher, 1972). In this denition, housing networks are the social ties through which actors access the necessary resources or ingredients to acquire housing. Without systematically resorting to the terminology of social networks, the abundant literature that documented the formation of informal settlements during the 1970s and 1980s challenged their condemnation as spontaneous or lawless by revealing that these neighborhoods were
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Social networks in the production of a neighborhood in Beirut


organized and managed through thick webs of social relations (Collier, 1976; Perlman, 1976; Ward, 1982; De Soto, 1989; Razzaz, 1993) that also sustained property claims (de Sousa Santos, 1977; Razzaz, 1998). During the 1990s, the growing interest throughout the social sciences in the sociology of economic life triggered research exploring the role of social networks in facilitating and sustaining economic exchanges. Networks were found to facilitate the circulation of information, ensure transaction security and provide recourse in case of default (Granovetter, 2005). Based on this framework, social networks in low-income land and housing markets are investigated in two ways. First, social networks are evaluated as conduits facilitating access to the resources needed to produce or purchase housing. Smith (2003: 85), for example, identied housing networks as social networks that bring together a group of actors or institutions who exchange resources that go into the production of housing. Smith proposed a detailed analysis of the networks themselves, looking at the context in which each network operates, the resources it provides (e.g. land, building materials), the nature of the link it establishes (e.g. reciprocal), and the actors it joins (see also Jenkins and Smith, 2001). Similarly, Pamuk (2000) described informal credit arrangements in Trinidad that rely on social networks to secure the necessary housing loans for low-income dwellers. Second, social networks are investigated as institutions that sustain the exchange of land and/or housing products. Researchers within this tradition have looked at how social networks facilitate the circulation of information about the availability and quality of the housing product (Deboulet, 1993; Varley, 2002) and help develop and secure contracts once a deal is set (Razzaz, 1998). Most (but not all) of this research is conducted within the framework of New Institutional Economics where networks are found to reduce transaction costs, by, for example, securing property rights in the absence of formal property systems (Mooya and Cloete, 2007). The favorable assessments of the role of social networks in supporting market performance have been countered by a sizable body of literature that has pointed to what is termed the dark side of social networks, notably exemplied in their ability to exclude actors considered outsiders to a network or in conning the potentials of learning and economic exchanges to acquaintances. In the context of low-income housing markets, critiques have been leveraged against informal property rights systems which were condemned for conning markets to narrow circles and preventing them from, to use the now famous De Soto terminology, achieving their capital potentials (De Soto, 2000; Mooya and Cloete, 2007). Based on this perspective, the main policy recommendation of international organizations has consisted for the past decade of formalizing property rights systems by fostering their reliance on formal market and state institutions (World Bank, 2002). Both approaches to the investigation of social networks have in common that they approach the analysis of social networks looking at their ability to provide material resources or facilities for their holders. While they recognize the importance of social factors in the production of housing and go a long way in explaining how they affect housing market performance, researchers are still looking at networks in an instrumental way, relying on a limited understanding of social networks as the ties linking social agents to particular types of resources, stripped from the social, geographic and historical context in which these networks are produced, activated and changed, or, in other words, from their role as social structures (Giddens, 1979; Sewell, 1992; Bourdieu, 1994). They, for example, fail to answer questions such as: How does the distribution of social networks among actors affect the opportunities of various social actors to participate in these markets as developers and/or clients or to secure better/worse deals? How do the social hierarchies in which these networks are embedded (e.g. men/women, young/elderly, members of family/geographic groupings or outsiders) inuence market opportunities? How do these patterns and opportunities change over time and how are they affected by contextual factors and/or by actors strategies?
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Mona Fawaz

In order to build on these research traditions without, nonetheless, ignoring their structural implications, I have imported into my analysis a methodological approach that conceptualizes social networks as elements of the structured and structuring framework in which knowledgeable social agents with differential capacities and resources intervene. I specically rely on the methodological approach developed by Pierre Bourdieu, which I adapt to this investigation, as detailed in the next section.
Pierre Bourdieu and social networks

In order to implement Bourdieus methodological approach to the investigation of social networks in the housing market, I have relied on the two concepts of social eld and social capital, which Bourdieu developed throughout his works (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992).3 First, social networks should be understood within the structured and relational social environments where they are developed and deployed, that is within a social eld or champ in French (Bourdieu, 1994). Bourdieu dened a social eld as a sphere that groups together a set of asymmetrical relations between particular social agents engaged in a well-dened set of practices. A social eld is neither a set of individuals nor a group of practices, it is a set of differential relations that position individuals and groups vis--vis each other in a given sphere, such as students (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1970), museum goers (Bourdieu, 1979), lawmakers (Bourdieu, 1987), homebuyers (Bourdieu, 2000) and others. According to this denition, it is possible to understand a housing market as a social eld that brings together a bundle of social relations connecting housing producers, consumers and regulators, as well as a variety of institutions (e.g. property rights, nancing agencies, planning agencies) at a given place and time. Ones ability to participate in the practices of a social eld (in this case, the investigated housing market) depends on ones ability to accumulate the necessary capital vis--vis other social agents and hence acquire social standing in the social hierarchy of this eld. Capital, according to Bourdieu (1986: 241), is accumulated labor . . . which, when appropriated on a private, i.e. exclusive, basis by agents or groups of agents, enables them to appropriate social energy in the form of reied or living labor. Capital can take many forms that could be roughly categorized as economic capital (e.g. money, consumption), cultural capital (embodied and institutionalized knowledge), symbolic capital (e.g. titles, accreditations, legitimizing references), or social capital (e.g. relations, obligations, connections, social position), knowing that all these forms of capital are fungible.4 Of these various forms of capital, social capital is the most relevant to the investigation of social networks since it consists of the aggregate form of actual and potential resources linked to the possession of a durable network of [a] more or less
3 The third concept which forms the third pillar in Bourdieus methodology is habitus which is a generating principle for action through which social agents produce ideas, perceptions, and actions that are constrained by these social agents historical and social positioning (Bourdieu, 1980; 1994). In Bourdieus approach, actions are neither a mechanical reproduction of social conditioning, nor an unpredictable free choice directed towards a rational end. They are rather the results of a social agents set of durable dispositions that guide her/his activities and help her/him adjust to changing circumstances. These durable dispositions are themselves produced by a specic historical and social context that structures the way actions are undertaken, but which is simultaneously structured or redened by these actions. While my analysis of actors strategies accounts for this principle, I exclude it from my methodological framework since my aim is not to explain the determinants of human actions but rather to show how social networks impact market opportunities, as explained in the article. 4 Elsewhere (2000), Bourdieu also referred to technological capital (abilities, procedures, know-how) and commercial capital (ability to sell, marketing) but these can be merged within other categories. It is also worth pointing out that none of these forms of capital has been clearly dened by Bourdieu, and there are clear overlaps between them (Smart, 1993).
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Social networks in the production of a neighborhood in Beirut


institutionalized relationship of mutual acquaintance and recognition (Bourdieu, 1986: 248). Social capital empowers agents to access, through ever extending networks of social relations, a wide array of resources that could not be otherwise marshaled. Furthermore, the accumulation of social capital eventually alters an agents social standing vis--vis others in the same social eld, repositions her/him within its social hierarchies, and improves his/her control over this eld and his/her ability to alter its rules in his/her favor (Bourdieu, 1980; 1986). Finally, these networks or structures are themselves the result of the accumulated strategies5 of individuals or groups who are conscious of their importance in determining the outcomes of processes of capital accumulation and social positioning within them and who, therefore, invest time and energy in altering them, within the connes of macro-structures, and given differential capacities to impose this change. Hence, social capital is not incidentally accumulated or institutionalized. It is rather the outcome of innite effort by individuals to institutionalize their relationships and transform them into social capital (Bourdieu, 1986: 249). In short, the structures of a particular social eld are dependent on the relative accumulation of capital between actors within this eld and both capital and the institutional structures of the social eld change over time, in part due to the strategies of the social agents who occupy them.6 Applying this methodological framework to the investigation of developers practices in Hayy el-Sellom provides a framework in which to investigate social networks as accumulated differential capital, produced and modied by social agents who activate them as part of their strategies of place-making, within a particular historical and spatial social eld. It thus provides an approach to complement and revise the representation of social networks as mere resources in the production and exchange of housing (whether evaluated as efcient or not). In the sections that follow, I develop the case study on the basis of this framework, looking at how social networks acted as resource providers, as capital, and how they changed over time in relation to the micro and macro conditions. The article concludes with observations on the opportunities created by the investigation of this housing market and, more generally, the analysis of markets in relation to social networks.
5 I use the word strategy as used by Bourdieu, meaning that while actors strategize and calculate, these are, to paraphrase Bourdieu, strategies without strategic intentions, inscribed and delimited by their durable dispositions and the frameworks in which they are embedded (see footnote 3). We are therefore very far from homo economicus, the atomized, calculating agent seeking to maximize his individual material benets by looking at which type of social network within his reach can get him the best housing resource, and which, in Bourdieus term, is akin to an anthropological monster, a practitioner with the head of a theoretician that incarnates the form, par excellence, of a scholastic fallacy (2000: 256). 6 Given the widespread use of the concept of social capital within American social sciences, it is important to show how this denition of social capital differs from others, and why, despite all the (mostly relevant) critiques of the use of this term, it is still relevant in this case. In some ways, Bourdieus concept of social capital comes close to the one proposed (or adapted) by James Coleman (1987), since both researchers dened social capital as the combined form of social networks and the resources they potentially or actually provide individuals, and they both dene this form of capital as the outcome of the individuals efforts to build it. In this, they differ from the third approach to social capital, namely the approach generally ascribed to Robert Putnam (1993) that identied social capital as a communal asset and as exogenous capital rather than a built one. Furthermore, both of these approaches have in common a somewhat economic understanding of social capital (often criticized in French academia) that somewhat equates the accumulation of social relations to the economic accumulation of capital. However, unlike Coleman, Bourdieu rejects rational choice theory. He instead roots his understanding of social capital in the structural limitations imposed on actors by macro- and micro-structures within the social elds in which they operate, their habitus. Moreover, Bourdieus social capital is differential and relational; it acknowledges the correspondence between ones accumulated (social and other) capital and ones standing in social hierarchies, and it recognizes unequal abilities to accumulate capital across actors (Bourdieu, 1980). For a comparison of these approaches see Foley and Edwards (1999).
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Mona Fawaz

Figure 2 Hayy el Sellom, aerial view, 1999 (source of base map: Lebanese Army databases)

The establishment of a land and housing market in Hayy el-Sellom


In 1950, a man by the name of Abu Raymond purchased an empty piece of land at the edge of the village of Mrayjeh, then a Christian village in Beiruts southern suburb where a few of his relatives lived. Abu Raymonds family had lived for generations in this area; their move was triggered by the construction of the Beirut International Airport, only a few hundred meters away. The land was purchased from a Christian family whom Abu Raymond knew well; they lived in the same area and shared religious and geographic afliations. In 1952, when Abu Raymonds family moved in, there were less than ve other houses in the location that was to become the rst core of Hayy el-Sellom, today Beiruts largest informal settlement (see Figure 2). Around the same time, a group of Muslim Shiite families from the H tribe, eeing their village because of a tribal dispute, arrived in Beirut. These families rented rooms near the olive groves that were to become Hayy el-Sellom, but soon started searching for affordable land to purchase in order to build a house. At that time, most land in the area belonged to Christian and Druze landowners who lived in the nearby hills of Choueyfa t, many of whom Abu Raymond knew well. When approached by the H. family, Abu Raymond introduced the head of the family to a landowner who agreed to sell them a land lot. Members of the H family then subdivided the land and each family built its own house in adjacent lots, as was the tradition at the time in rural settings. The housing of the H family encouraged Abu Raymond to become a land developer. He was quick to understand that this mode of housing provision could be protable because of the steady ow of rural migrants to the southern suburbs of Beirut who
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Social networks in the production of a neighborhood in Beirut


usually paid high rents for rooms.7 Given their agricultural background, in which land is considered a form of security, most of these migrant families preferred to buy property rather than rent; but they could only afford small lots with the modest amounts they had acquired from the sale of their homes in the villages from which they had migrated. The existing lot sizes were therefore too large for them to be able to purchase land. In 1953, Abu Raymond began his land developer practice. He procured land from the landowners he knew well, subdivided the lots into smaller plots, and sold them to the migrants. Since he knew little about how to subdivide land, he sought the help of a formal land developer from Beirut, Saedded n, whom he met through landowners. Because of his experience in land development, Saedded n was able to recommend state-accredited topographers, point out a notary public, arrange a legal land transfer contract and develop a subdivision plan with properly numbered lots. Abu Raymond also hired a contractor to delimit the internal roads on site with a poured layer of asphalt. Abu Raymonds practices did not strictly follow the letter of the law. As of 1954, a decree required land subdivisions to secure the approval of municipal authorities, a procedure he could not follow since the municipality was unhappy with him facilitating the penetration of migrants from a different religious and social background to the area.8 He was also selling lots to migrants in full knowledge that they would build illegal structures.9 When zoning regulations10 were approved for Beirut and its suburbs in 1964, his practices became more openly illegal given the wide discrepancy between the size of the lots he was subdividing (100m2) and those required by the law (minimum 2,000m2). Yet, the developer did not bypass all formalities, especially when it came to property titles. Abu Raymond recorded all transaction sales in the formal notary registries (ka teb adel); and once all the lots were sold, in the Public Land Registry where he paid due taxes. Abu Raymonds ability to subdivide and sell lots was facilitated by the pattern of landholding in the area, which was based on rather dispersed properties in relatively moderate sizes. Unlike large-scale property owners who would denigrate the small prots that came out of this business, these landowners were interested in the small gains they accrued from this form of land sale. Furthermore, landowners generally resided in the surrounding area and it was possible for him to involve them in his business. They either sold him their land or, more frequently, entered into joint ventures with him. For each new lot, a formal contract was drafted by a lawyer and signed and registered at an ofcial notary public.11 Social connections to property owners were, however, not sufcient for Abu Raymonds practices. He needed to gain the trust of buyers with whom he had no social or religious connection because the demand at the time was coming from rural migrants, essentially Muslim Shiites.12 He also wanted to secure the transactions in the event of buyers breaching their verbal contracts with him. Abu Raymond pursued these dual objectives by relying on the formal symbols of government and professional institutions

7 This was a phase of high rural to urban migration in Beirut. These migrants were drawn to Choueyfa t in the hope that they would nd employment either in the new airport or in the factories located nearby (Nasr 1978). 8 A 1954 decree required that all lot subdivisions are approved by the Municipality through an application process to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior. 9 Purchasers were unable to process building permit applications since the dimensions and layout of the lots excluded the possibility of legal constructions for all buyers. 10 Master Plan for the suburbs of Beirut, Decree 16 948 issued on 23 July 1964. 11 I was able to see several copies of contracts signed between the landowners and the developer, entitling the latter to represent the owner and sell at whatever price he deems right, in part or in whole, to one or several individuals the lots they possessed. 12 The waves of rural migration to Beirut generally followed religious lines. The 1950s corresponded to the migration of Muslim Shiites, at that time the poorest religious group in Lebanon, to Beirut (Faour, 1981).
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Mona Fawaz

Figure 3 Informal lot subdivision plan for lot 1058 in Amrussiyeh, Hayy el Sellom. The subdivision plan reproduces elements of the formal code, including the table listing all property shareholders and formal references to the Lebanese Republic and the local jurisdiction (source: Topographers personal records)

that helped him project a credible and secure image to prospective buyers. The subdivision map provides a good example: it was drawn and certied by a governmentaccredited topographer who was introduced to prospective buyers as The Engineer.13 The topographer marked the maps with several symbols of ofcial approval and the emblems and elements of formal public documents, such as the Lebanese Republic logo, the subdivision table, etc. (see Figure 3). Abu Raymond also relied on formal property titles issued by the Land Registry to make the land sales appear legitimate to the buyers.14 Abu Raymond was ingenious in other ways. To protect land sales to buyers who could not initially pay the entire price, he devised a monitoring system whereby the names of such buyers were marked with a special note (isha rah) in the ofcial land registry.15 This signied to the buyers that they could not violate their verbal contract with Abu Raymond, as this mark was the proof that they had not paid the full amount and were hence unable to access the full benets attached to legal ownership (e.g. trade property, credit).16
13 This title connoted professional legitimacy at a time when such modern symbols of meritocracy were highly valued by the migrant society of Hayy el-Sellom. 14 Although the subdivision map was not a legal document, it was used to resolve conicts over property boundaries. Both Abu Raymond and the topographers kept copies of the map and, in case of disputes, made them available to the residents. Subdivision maps were also used in building permit applications, when these were led. Through this process, this document, which was initially created to evoke a sense of formality, gradually gained legitimacy to be eventually accepted as valid evidence of ownership, even by public agencies. I was thus able to nd many examples of these maps in the archives of two public agencies, the Directorate General of Urbanism and the Choueyfa t Municipality. 15 Isha rah on a property record puts a hold on a property that indicates to anyone consulting land records that a particular aspect of the legality of the lot is temporarily questionable. 16 It is not clear whether Abu Raymond had to bribe ofcials in the Land Registry to mark the names of the buyers who owed payments (the procedure exists and is relatively inexpensive). Neither is it clear that Abu Raymond ever used the registry books to demand payment or evict defaulting
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Social networks in the production of a neighborhood in Beirut


By the late 1950s, Abu Raymond had given the settlement its name: Hayy el-Sellom, in Arabic, The Ladder Neighborhood. The name was appropriate because much of the housing was built on a hilly topography with steps and terraces to reduce soil erosion.17 The neighborhood was to retain this name and impose itself over time as the largest informal settlement of the Lebanese Capital City Beirut.
Strategic alliances

As the ow of rural, Muslim migrants to Hayy el-Sellom continued, the H family the rst family housed by Abu Raymond began to play the role of a partner in Abu Raymonds business. There was a complementary division of labor between Abu Raymond and Hajj Hamad H, the eldest member of the H family. Abu Raymond concentrated on procuring land from landowners, and restricting the access of others to these landowners by working closely with the land keepers who watched the land on behalf of the landowners. Hajj Hamad activated his own social networks to reach prospective buyers, arrange informal land sales, and in some instances, ensure recovery of credit. Over time, other rural migrants also played the role of intermediaries, referred to as was ts, and were paid commissions to facilitate land sales. A was t was often the rst member of a village or family to have arrived at Hayy el-Sellom and purchased land from Abu Raymond. He acted as an intermediary between the developer and other members of his family/village group, providing an informal assurance of security to both parties. This explains why Hayy el-Sellom expanded as a set of contiguous neighborhoods named after the intermediaries, such as Hayy Arab (the Arab family quarters), Hayy Amhaz, Hayy Kanan or Hayy el Hibberiyyeh (after the village of origin), and so on. By the mid-1960s the business was booming. This was further accelerated by political events in the country that escalated housing demand in the city.18 At that time, Abu Raymond and Hajj Hamad attempted to expand their business by building nished houses on some of the plots for sale. But these houses were not sold as quickly as Abu Raymond and Hajj Hamad had anticipated, so the partners returned to their original practices. As the number of was ts increased, Abu Raymond and Hajj Hamad became less interested in making each transaction appear formal and legitimate. Instead, they relied on the was ts to guarantee the transactions with the buyers who, by then, had become more condent about Hayy el-Selloms longevity. They also relied increasingly on personal relations with the police station in order to protect and secure their market transactions that were becoming increasingly undesirable to local authorities. Abu Raymond thus regularly bribed the head and members of the nearby police station with fruit harvested in the neighborhood and/or percentages on every illegal construction. In exchange, he secured the reliable support of the police station that he sold as protection, part of the housing package he was selling. This protection often replaced the need for legal building permits, since the enforcing authority had pledged to protect the practices of the developer and close its eyes when the same building permit circulated on an entire
residents. What is clear, however, is that the residents remember that there was a system of monitoring in place to counter the uncertainty usually associated with informal transactions and exible payment schedules. 17 There are several narratives about the origins of the name of Hayy el-Sellom. Some have claimed that sellom or ladder referred to the many ladders in the area that were used to harvest trees. Others have described a ladder that long served as a footbridge over the Ghadr River and earned the neighborhood its name. However, Abu Raymonds role was the most recurrent story I heard. 18 The 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and especially the 1969 Cairo treaty which gave the Palestinian Liberation Organization a de facto permit to initiate resistance activities against Israel from South Lebanon, created large migration ows from southern Lebanon to the suburbs of Beirut and further escalated the demand for housing in the area. For Cairo Treaties, see Salibi (1976) and el-Khazen (2000).
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Mona Fawaz

lot. Eventually, developers and was ts began to ignore construction restrictions more blatantly and, by the early 1970s, they were building multi-story buildings and renting out units to new migrants, thereby initiating the neighborhoods rental market. Over time, an entire network of social relations connected to public actors (e.g. police station, low-level planning agents, and political gures) created the basis for a housing market that was monopolized with all its linkages (e.g. construction labor, materials, permits) by Abu Raymond and a number of his partners. The developer controlled tightly how land was procured and, with the help of mediators, how it was sold. Moreover, by the mid-1960s, construction became the guarded turf of a few mediators. The commission or interest they would earn from linking Abu Raymond to a client granted them the exclusive right to build the house, a condition for land sale that was sometimes imposed on clients. These linkages were further consolidated when, in the mid-1960s, Spiro, Abu Raymonds son, started selling construction materials on credit to newcomers who had just purchased land from his father, providing clients with exceptional facilities since he beneted from his fathers securities. By 1970, Spiro teamed up with Hajj Hamads son to open a stone cutting factory in the neighborhood.19 In this process, the police force played a central role since it prevented anyone from building if s/he bypassed the actors in charge. Several interviewees recalled that the clearance provided by Abu Raymond was their only security to be able to build their houses, while others remembered conicts and challenges when they attempted to bring in cheaper builders from their native villages.
Social networks as housing networks

These descriptions attest that networks in the strict sense of housing networks that connect developers to housing resources played an important role in insuring the establishment of Abu Raymonds practice as a developer. It was indeed based on religious and geographic networks that the developer ensured access to land, the basic ingredient for housing, and it was through the kinship, religious and geographic social relations of mediators that information circulated and transactions were secured. Other market securities rested on public agencies, such as the land registry, the notary public, or public planning agencies or on symbols of legality, such as the subdivision map, but these securities ultimately also depended on social networks since they were secured through personal relations with actors located within these agencies, such as topographers, surveyors, notaries, lawyers and others. This analysis of social networks needs, however, to be expanded beyond the direct observation of the resources they provided to look at how these networks were themselves developed, how they were distributed in the housing market, and how they affected the opportunities for prot created by this market, ultimately enabling one actor to position himself vis--vis other actors as the developer. Here is how it happened.

Abu Raymonds personal trajectory and social networks as differential access

Social ascent

The son of an unknown farmer who raised a few cows and harvested a limited number of olive trees in the area, Abu Raymond began his life as the modest owner of a small grocery store. However, a few years after he initiated the land market business, he became a khawa jah, a respected member of the community and later a Shaykh, the
19 To date the two men still operate this factory together.
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highest informal title of respect in his community.20 At the end of his career in Hayy el-Sellom, Abu Raymond was known as a man of connections or an electoral key to be visited by candidates before elections.21 He had contacts and inuence, as his phone book and personal agenda attest, listing the names of lawyers, developers, but also political gures such as then MP Talal Arslan or the highest Druze religious authority (see Figure 4). He was a highly visible person, his daughter-in-law explained during one of my visits to the family, people knew his whereabouts and in this village [as she refers to Hayy el-Sellom], that was an important sign of respect and importance.22 However, the basis of Abu Raymonds positive reputation was not derived from his kinship relations or his religious position per se. In fact, his cousins spoke unfavorably of him, mocking his prince-like attitudes.23 Many of the neighborhoods old Christian families also blamed him for having facilitated the penetration of Shiite intruders into the area. Instead, his social standing was the outcome of a long-term strategic investment in institution building and tapping, especially in developing social networks and alliances that helped in the creation of the persona of the developer of Hayy el-Sellom. Abu Raymond accumulated positive social relations with his clients by investing in the role of a benefactor in order to gain recognition from the residents of Hayy el-Sellom. He was happy to be known as a forgiving and generous person. While he established multiple mechanisms to ensure compliance and repayment, he never enforced them.24 Neither was he known to charge penalties on delays. Instead, he made gestures of generosity such as forgiving payments or providing legal titles before full payment was made. Moreover, Abu Raymond visited and (more importantly) was visited by the neighborhoods residents on diverse occasions and many interviewees remembered the line in front of the door of his house, another important proof of his distinguished social standing. Finally, Abu Raymond participated in and nanced the construction of the rst mosque of Hayy el-Sellom. As a Christian who was facilitating the entry of members of a different religious group into his neighborhood, this gesture carried important symbolic signicance to the old residents of the neighborhoods who still talk about this initiative fty years later. Simultaneously, Abu Raymond invested in building networks with landlords to whom he appealed through an upper-income persona: He regularly hired a car and a driver, gambled excessively, and went frequently to the casino, where he often invited others.25 Through this image he also distinguished himself from the lower-income residents of the neighborhood where he lived, including his own family members, as he also did through his clothing, his habits (such as carrying a cane and walking around the neighborhood quarters as was common among feudal lords at the time), and his house (which was built of stone, a sure mark of wealth in this social context). He also maintained a small barn
20 Unlike the Muslim communities for whom the title of Shaykh has religious connotations, Shaykh for Christian communities in Lebanon connotes important social standing. 21 In a study of the socio-political structures of the southern suburbs of Beirut in 1975, Khuri differentiated between different types of political leaders in the area, notably between a zam ,a leader with a following beyond his geographic area, and other types of community leaders whose standing derived from the local practices through which they were essentially known. Clearly, Abu Raymond is part of the latter form of leadership and cannot be recognized as a zam himself (Khuri, 1975). 22 This was mentioned to me on one of several visits I paid to the family of Spiro, Abu Raymonds son, in their home in Zouk (Eastern suburb of Beirut) between April and June 2003. 23 This condemnation of Abu Raymond was reiterated during two interviews held with Abu Raymonds cousin: on 14 June 1999 in the family house in Hayy el Sellom and on 4 April 2003. 24 For purposes of accuracy, I should mention that I heard about a number of incidents where Abu Raymond was angry and threatened buyers to take back the land, but these threats were not followed through. 25 Abu Raymonds addiction to gambling was to eventually take the best out of the old man, since he lost all his money at the gaming tables after he left Hayy el Sellom. His personal daily to-do notes also contained innumerable mentions of organizing poker sessions.
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Figure 4 Page from Abu Raymonds personal appointment book, which mentions a meeting in Beiteddne in the house of Prince Talal Arsla n (Member of Parliament, traditional feudal authority). Those present include Walid Jumbla t (an important political gure in the region and also a traditional feudal authority) and Sheikh al-Akl (highest Druze religious authority) (source: Abu Raymond personal records, courtesy of his family)

in front of his house where he raised a few domestic animals such as a peacock and several cows, and he distributed the milk to the poor in the area. These practices are still widely remembered among the older dwellers of the neighborhood. Many of Abu Raymonds efforts were geared towards creating networks with public agents and important political gures in order to protect and secure his market that was becoming increasingly undesirable to local authorities. Aside from networking with the police station, the task was facilitated when, with some help from the developer, Hajj Hamads nephews found employment as clerks in public planning agencies.26 Through their positions, the brothers ensured an important link for the developer with the state. They secured the necessary connections with engineers whose signature was legally required on any building permit; when permits were needed, they devised tricks in their capacity as public sector servants to bypass legal requirements, and they eventually established a business trading legal documents in the neighborhood (Fawaz, 2004). Part of the social image Abu Raymond built was directly tied to his business and the housing resources he had accumulated through his networks. To begin with, Abu Raymond had access to land in a traditional context where land is unavoidably associated with wealth and social standing. Furthermore, Abu Raymond counted many connections
26 The elder, Mohamed, in the Ministry of Public Works and the younger, Fawz, a few years later, in the then newly instituted Directorate General of Urbanism (the highest town planning agency at the time).
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in the local construction sector, which meant he could facilitate the process of building ones home but also help people nd employment. In addition, the fact that people owed him money and relied on him for protection from the police created non-reciprocal relations between him and other members of this social eld, giving him importance in the neighborhood. Finally, in the way he conducted business, Abu Raymond was able to build a positive reputation that would serve his social image: He was known as a man of his word who rarely defaulted and never cheated. Many clients explained that they trusted him on the basis of his extensive trading in the area, which guaranteed reliability. In the few instances where mistakes had occurred (e.g. multiple sales), neighborhood dwellers had rarely heard about them and, by and large, his clients remembered him for his generosity and straightforwardness. Finally, Abu Raymond became a local political gure and took part in electoral politics. One cannot claim that Abu Raymonds standing rested on swaying a large electoral base. Indeed, he lived in a suburban context, where most residents were rural migrants, having political, economic and social links to their villages of origin where they voted and no political representation in the city. However, the developer facilitated the ofcial residency transfer of a number of migrant families (the H family and others) to Choueyfa t where their votes could inuence the results of local elections. Furthermore, many of the landowners who had also become his business partners began to trust his judgments. Having then a hold on a number of voters gave the developer an entre into the political scene and initiated a process by which he could create some pressure on local authorities or obtain services for the area.27 Thus, Abu Raymond became acquainted with a number of important political gures who helped in providing services, protecting his business and maintaining his social standing. In the late 1960s, when one of the property owners provided an introduction to the son of the rst Lebanese president, then the General Director of Tourism,28 Abu Raymond staged a formal reception for this visitor. He distributed shot-guns to all of us and instructed us to shoot in the air, 40 shots, as soon as the Minister got out of the car, recalled one of the oldest mediators in the area. So we did, . . . and two weeks later, we had asphalt on the streets!29 The processes of institution-tapping, networking and building an image fed on each other considerably. As Abu Raymonds ability to control the police station grew, for example, so did his image in the neighborhood, and his respectability . . . and along with them the number of his clients.
Social networks as social capital

This analysis of social networks as social capital provides a clear idea of the mechanisms through which such networks are formed and how their distribution in the housing market, seen as a social eld, affects the opportunities for prot created by this market. Indeed, the section illustrates well how Abu Raymond invested energy in developing these networks and transforming them into a capital that could support his land development business as well as his own rise within the neighborhoods social hierarchies. It also shows how his ability to control a number of social networks enabled him to monopolize the land development business over a decade. The next section develops these points further, showing how changes in the macro-context as well as the strategies of other actors within this social group eventually altered the nature of this market and the opportunities for prot it generates.
27 This is not to say that this was Abu Raymonds central strategy. It did, however, impact on the three municipal elections that happened during these years. 28 The son of the rst Lebanese President, Michel el-Khour was a journalist who became Director General of Tourism. This is a signicant network for the old developer because the Khour and a few other families formed a clan that controlled the countrys political economy for decades (Traboulsi, 1993). 29 Interview held with Hajj Mehd in his house in Hayy el Sellom on 20 July 1999.
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The rise of a new group of developers

Following this pattern, Hayy el-Sellom continued to grow with increasing numbers of intermediaries (was ts). It was inevitable that by the early 1970s, Hajj Hamad and a few was ts started their own land subdivision businesses, independently of Abu Raymond. By then, they had observed and assisted Abu Raymond sufciently to learn the practice and forge their own networks with landlords, surveyors, notaries and the police station. Some of them had also come to know landowning families personally, having worked for them for over a decade, often harvesting crops. Several neighborhood and citywide factors were accelerating the process by which the market slipped out of the hand of the developer. First, the legality of the transaction and construction processes had lost considerable importance because the size of the neighborhood was recognized as a sufcient source of security for many dwellers, rendering the developers networks to public agencies less valuable. Legality was also losing importance because this period coincided with Lebanons descent into civil war (197590) and hence the breakdown of public institutions that were losing control over territories (el-Khazen, 2000). This situation imposed new constraints on developers and landlords: they now needed to protect their properties from squatting, which was becoming a widespread means of accessing land in the surrounding areas (Charafeddine, 1991). Since the area was falling under the control of Muslim and Druze militias, Christian landlords were now eager to sell their properties. Conversely, mediators were in a stronger position since they could forge good connections with the militias, on the basis of their religious background. In the mid-1970s, the mediators rented space and inaugurated themselves as the ofces of a Shiite militia (Amal) in the neighborhood, accessing the necessary arms and protection to retain control over their land. With this newly acquired position, these mediators-turned-developers strengthened their hold over the land and housing market in the area, both preventing squatting and also stopping outsiders from participating in the organization of the market. Several of these developers in fact admitted forcibly blocking outsiders from participating in this housing market, which they considered their domain. These new developers soon acquired social standing and visibility in the neighborhood. Members of large families or groups, they became notables in the Hayy, known gures who could provide land and services reliably. The older among them are still remembered or known by residents as good doers who helped them access housing. Many among them also acquired additional symbolic capital, effective within their community, by going to Mecca on a pilgrimage, for example, and obtaining the rewarding title of Hajj or by taking several wives, an important tribal symbol of wealth since one has to be able to sustain several houses. Given the absence of public services in the area, their provision also became a space in which mediators could gain visibility in the community. In the mid-1970s, they established and chaired a neighborhood committee that organized visits to Shiite political representatives, reclaiming and eventually ensuring access to water and electricity in the neighborhood, and hence establishing themselves as service providers. When the civil war broke out in 1975, Beirut was divided into two belligerent sections. As a Christian whose house in Hayy el-Sellom fell under the control of Muslim militias, Abu Raymonds visibility played against him. As the civil war escalated, he had to leave his house in Hayy el-Sellom and moved to the eastern section of Beirut, which was then controlled by Christian militias.30 He did not terminate all his business ties with Hayy el-Sellom, however; his son followed them up throughout the war. Abu Raymond
30 With very few exceptions (including some of Abu Raymonds cousins), all Christian families left Hayy el Sellom and Mrayjeh during the years of civil war and were gone by the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, Abu Raymond left ahead of everyone else. It is said that his dealings put him in a vulnerable position vis--vis the militias and forced him to run away overnight from the neighborhood.
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kept coming to areas bordering the neighborhood where some residents he had become close to would still come and meet him. His social relations to them had transcended business interests and he was by then interested in perpetuating his image. By that time, however, the housing market had moved into the hands of a new generation of developers.

Conclusion: social networks and the structures of housing production

This article has investigated the role of social networks in enabling a number of social agents to take part in the production of housing in the informal settlement of Hayy el-Sellom over a period of 25 years. My ndings conrmed that social networks, whether they were inherited kin and geographic relations or consciously built, played a central role in the organization and management of the investigated market. These networks operated in two interconnected ways. First, social networks acted as housing networks, providing developers with access to the necessary resources to produce or exchange land for housing. Second, social networks were accumulated as a form of capital, enabling developers to reposition themselves within the social hierarchies of the neighborhood and hence control the production and exchange of housing in this area. Finally, the distribution of these networks inuenced the nature and functioning of the housing market, or, more specically, forged the opportunities for particular agents to participate as developers in this market. Early on, these opportunities were restricted to only one developer who, a survey of 300 property owners in the neighborhood indicates, had sold land to all families who arrived to the neighborhood before 1973. These ndings suggest that the distribution of social networks and the way they were reshaped through the developers practices during the early development of this neighborhood created a monopolistic housing market where only one developer provided access to housing in the area. However, the changes that occurred over time within and around the neighborhood reshaped the patterns in which these networks were distributed and the relative values that each of these networks carried, eventually providing the opportunity for different actors to participate in the area as developers. This is clear, for example, in the changing value of religious and geographic social networks, which lost their importance once access to land became easier through other forms of networks and through changing macro-conditions in the city. It is also noticeable in relation to the value of networks connecting developers to public agencies that became redundant once the market was consolidated on the basis of its own size and required less protection from public agencies. It is also evident that the social context in which these networks were embedded clearly inuenced the opportunities created by the market: the patriarchal structures that dominate this social environment are replicated in the opportunity to participate in the production of housing: there were no women working as developers. Finally, the pattern of networks cannot be understood outside the macro-environment of Beirut in the 1950s70s, such as the changing control over the territories in which the neighborhood was located or the changing value of legality, all of which affected its functioning considerably. Aside from showing the role of networks in housing production, these ndings illustrate the extent to which formal and informal institutions are intertwined in the production of housing. They also show that reliance on public/state agencies sometimes occurs due to the support of informal institutions, such as social networks, and that public agencies and public agents play a key role in the production of informal housing, as was argued elsewhere (Hasan, 2000; Fawaz, 2004). These ndings also indicate that the linear trajectory which policymakers often apply in regularization strategies, assuming that neighborhoods begin illegal and are eventually regularized may not always hold since in this case, much of the early urbanization was legal and housing production only departed from the public framework once the market was relatively established.
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To what extent can these conclusions be generalized to other informal settlements in Lebanon and/or other contexts? Although these ndings are derived from a single case study, there is every reason to expect that wherever and whenever social networks play a substantial role in housing exchanges, similar processes are expected to occur. Indeed, once we acknowledge social networks potential to accumulate as capital and their geographic and historical contingency, their structuring effects on housing markets or the ways in which they inuence market opportunities are rather predictable. Hence, the widespread evidence about the role of social networks in securing the ingredients for housing production and exchange, which is widely reported by researchers in the Middle East (Assaad, 1997; Razzaz, 1998), Africa (Deboulet, 1993; 1994; Jenkins and Smith, 2001), Latin America (Turner and Fitcher, 1972; Pamuk, 2000; Varley, 2002; Smith, 2003) and Asia (Smart, 1983; Hasan, 2000), suggests that these networks are playing similar roles in other contexts, whether the production of housing is occurring informally or in other segments of housing markets (Soares De Magalhes, 1999; Tang et al., 2006). Furthermore, accounts of the formation and operation of informal housing markets suggest that the structuring effects of such networks are indeed observable elsewhere. For example, Razzazs (1993) descriptions of early settlement formation in Amman (Jordan) where tribal networks are very powerful show that the production and management of the land and housing business was concentrated in the hands of a few renowned tribesmen. In Egypt and in Pakistan, where social relations with the public sector are deemed essential for access to housing and social services, most informal developers are retired or active military ofcers or state-accredited topographers working outside the range of their work (Deboulet, 1994; Hasan, 2000; Soliman, 2004). Similar patterns have also been observed in Mexican settlements (Garcia and Jimenez, 1994). In other contexts, seniority in the settlement translates into accumulated social networks that enable early comers to play key roles in a housing market (Chabbi, 1988; Deboulet, 1994).31 Furthermore, in all these accounts, the structures of the social networks inuence market opportunities. For example, wherever patriarchy is powerful (e.g. Jordan, Tunis, Morocco, Egypt, Mexico), accounts describe the profession of land development as largely restricted to men (Chabbi, 1988; Ward, 1999; Deboulet, 1993).32 These accounts also conrm that participation in a particular housing market is derived from and inuences social standing within a specic social context, showing developers as respectable social references playing key roles, for example, in neighborhood management (Chabbi, 1988; Hasan, 2000) and conict resolution (Razzaz, 1998; Ward, 1999). Before closing the article, it is worth dwelling a little longer on the signicance of these research ndings in relation to the current investigations of social networks in sustaining housing (and other forms of) markets. The question I would like to raise is why have so many investigations of housing markets and, consequently, the current housing paradigm, failed to account for the types of conclusions that can be drawn from this research? I offer, by way of conclusion, the elaboration of a critique of the approach adopted by much of the current market research, which I believe has imported social networks to the analysis of markets, but at the same time stripped them of the historical, spatial and hence social contexts in which they are developed. As a result, the complex and hierarchical nature of networks is evaded and they are instead represented as mere conduits used by social actors who speculate on their efciency over other channels and adopt them, in individual, prot maximizing choices. Similar critiques have been rained on the applications of this framework in other areas of the economy. For example, in a
31 While my article focuses on exchanges in illegal land subdivision where property rights are not violated, there is widespread evidence in the literature that housing exchanges within squatter settlements (where land is illegally occupied) are also subject to sales and that similar market transactions occur in these areas (Smart, 1983; Chabbi, 1988). 32 Deboulet (1994) mentions a single female developer from a particularly well-known family and insists on her exceptional prole.
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recent review of how regional urban development studies have incorporated noneconomic factors such as social capital, trust, and reciprocity, Hadjimichalis (2006) argued that many of these studies have incorporated these factors in approaches that are compatible with neo-liberal views, hence failing to account for power asymmetries and the micro- and macro-economic environments in which they are embedded. In other words, if we are to account for social institutions and their role in the production of space, investigations have to recognize that these networks are rooted in spatial, historical, social and economic hierarchies, that they are rife with historical and power struggles. I hope to have shown that this is equally true for contemporary housing market investigations.
Mona Fawaz (, Graduate Program in Urban Planning, Policy and Design Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut P.O. Box 11-0236, Riad al-Solh 1107-2020, Beirut, Lebanon.

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Cet article, qui prsente la cration dun quartier informel de Beyrouth (Liban) au travers des trajectoires adoptes par les promoteurs ayant pris part sa production, sintresse au rle des rseaux sociaux dans ce processus. Utilisant principalement lapproche mthodologique de Pierre Bourdieu, lanalyse rvle que les rseaux sociaux jouent un rle central comme canaux permettant aux promoteurs daccder aux ressources et aux cautionnements du march dont ils ont besoin pour mener leur activit. Par ailleurs, les rseaux sociaux sont accumuls telle une forme de capital, ce qui permet aux promoteurs daccentuer leur mainmise sur la production dhabitations dans le quartier. De plus, il apparat que, si certains de ces rseaux ont t hrits, dautres sont le fruit de patients investissements de ces promoteurs malgr les conditions changeantes des environnements micro (quartier) et macro (ville). Pour nir, la rpartition volutive des rseaux sociaux dans ce quartier a dtermin quand et comment les diffrents agents sociaux ont t en mesure de participer la production et lchange dhabitations en tant que promoteurs. Ces rsultats sont importants puisquils ouvrent de nouvelles perspectives sur les modes opratoires des marchs (fonciers informels), les pratiques des promoteurs dans ce type de quartier, ainsi que les mcanismes de production dhabitat informel dans le contexte libanais, mcanismes qui nont jamais t tudis.

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 32.3 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation 2008 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.