Laying Claim to Beirut: Urban Narrative and Spatial Identity in the Age of Solidere Author(s): Saree Makdisi Source

: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 23, No. 3, Front Lines/Border Posts (Spring, 1997), pp. 661-705 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344040 Accessed: 22/02/2010 12:20
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Laying Clainl to Beirut:UrbanNarrativeand SpatialIdentity in the Age of Solidere

SareeMakdisi

Asregards coastal towns,one mustsee to it thattheyaresituated on a height or amidsta people sufficiently numerousto come to the support the townwhenan enemyattacks The reasonfor thisis of it. that a townwhichis nearthe sea but does not havewithinits area tribeswhoshareitsgroupfeeling,or is not situated ruggedmounin tainterritory, in dangerof beingattacked nightby surprise. is at Its enemiescan easilyattackit with a fleet. They can be sure that the cityhas no one to callto its supportand thatthe urbanpopulation, accustomed tranquility to does not knowhowto fight.
IBN KHALDUN, Muqaddamclh The

Whenhe cameto the end of hisjourney, al-Karim Abd didnt realize hed traveledmorethan all the shoe shinersin the world.Not becausehe had comeall the wayfromMashta Hasanin Akkar Beito rut, but becauseBeirutitself travels.You stay whereyou are and
All translations my own unless otherwisenoted. are An earlier and much shorterversion of this essay was presented at the Middle East StudiesAssociation(MESA) conferencein Phoenix, November 1994; part of section 3 was presentedat the MESAconferencein Washington, D.C., December 1995; part of section 4 was presentedat the "Dislocating States" conferenceon globalization held at the University of Chicago in 1996. Portionsof this essay previouslyappeared in Saree Makdisi,"Letter from Beirut," ANY(Architecture New York)5 (Mar.-Apr. 1994):56-59. For the formationand elaborationof many of the ideas I present here, I am deeply indebted to discussionswith my parentsand brothers,RonaldAbdelmoutaleb Judy, Richard Dienst, Cesare Casarino,Paul Silverstein,David Rinck, Nadya Engler,Roger Rouse, MahaYahya,MichaelSpeaks,Homi Bhabhaand the other coeditorsof CrtticalInquiry,Elias
CrS2cal Inquiry 23 (Spring 1997) X) 1997 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/97/2303-0007$01.00. All rights reserved.

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FIC. l(a). What used to be Martyrs' Square,facing south; the statue has been removed for renovation.The excavationin the foregroundis an archaeological dig. The remainingbuildingsin the backroundmarkSolidere's southernperimeter.Photo by author.

FIG. l(b). Postcard Martyrs' of Squarebefore the war,facingnorth. The street lamp in the foreground(near the buses)is visiblein its postwarruinationin the photo in fig. 5.

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it travels. Instead of you traveling,the city travels. Look at Beirut, transformingfrom the Switzerlandof the East to Hong Kong, to Saigon, to Calcutta,to Sri Lanka. It'sas if we circled the world in ten or twentyyears.We stayedwhere we were and the world circled around us. Everythingaround us changed, and we have changed. of The ELIAS KHOURY, Journey LittleGandhi The very center of Beirut is today a wasteland. For thousands of square meters extending from Martyrs'Squarelittle remains of the heart of this ancient city.Severaladjoiningareasare made up of a patchworkof buildings slated for recuperationand of naked sites wherebuildingsor souks long since bulldozed or demolished once stood. Today a bold new rebuilding project is underway, one that, under the aegis of a single company (Solidere),promises to bring new life to the center of the city; indeed, the company's slogan is Beirut An Ancient City for the Future. Ironically,though, in the months since reconstructionofficially began in earnest (summer 1994), more buildings have been demolished than in almost twenty years of artillery bombardment and house-tohouse combat. As of the summer of 1994, indeed, whateverone wants to say about the reconstructionplan currentlybeing put into effect in central Beirut is almost (but not quite) beside the point. For the object of discussion the center of the city virtuallydoes not exist any longer; there is, in its place, a dusty sprawlof gaping lots, excavations,exposed infrastructure, and archeologicaldigs. Criticsof the reconstructionplan mourn the loss of the old city center;but its supportersclaim that the old city center had been left beyond salvationby the end of the war and that not only was reconstructionon this scale inevitable but, for any number of reasons, this particularreconstructionplan was and is the only possible option. The debate has centered for the most part on how or why or whether the current plan is the only option. In the meantime, we are losing sight of
Khoury,Ramiz Malouf(directorof informationat Solidere),ZakariaKhalil(of the Town and PlanningDeparmentat Solidere),NajahWakeem, aboveall KamalHamdan.This essay forms only one part of a much larger project;in subsequentessaysI more fully elaborate the historicalquestionsraisedby the Solidereproject,and I also try to movebeyondcritique to of to an elaboration alternatives the Solidereproject.Whatis at stakein the presentessay is merely an outline of the projectand an overallassessmentof some of its political and culturalramifications.

Saree Makdisi is an assistantprofessor of English and comparative Emliteratureat the Universityof Chicago. He is the author of Universal (forthcoming).He has also of and pire:Romanticism theCulture Modernization been writing a series of essays,including this one, on the politics of culture in the contemporaryArabworld.

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FIG. 2. The wasteland whatused to be Martyrs' of Square,with one of the ubiquitous Mercedesdumptrucksin foregroundand a "recuperated" building in background.Photo by author.

FIG. 3. Infrastructure installation.The scale of some of the workon the infrastructure can be quite overwhelming,evocative perhaps of a technologicalsublime. Photo by author.

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how it came to be the only option,how other optionswereforeclosed longbeforethe reconstruction effortofficially began,howthe wholeprocesshasbeenpresented Lebanon the world Solidere others to and by and as an accomplished Nowthe citycenterappears a blankslate,as fact. as an "inevitable" problem withan '4inevitable" solution, the ''solutiorl'' and itselfappears the fulfillment its ownself-fulfilling as of prophecy. Blankor not, the citycenteris a surface willbe inscribed the that in comingyearsin waysthatwillhelpto determine unfolding the narrative of Lebanon's national identity, whichis nowevenmoreopen to question. Forit is in this highlycontested spacethatvarious competing visionsof thatidentity, wellas of Lebanon's as relationship the regionand to the to restof the Arabworld,willbe foughtout.The battlesthis timewilltake the formof narratives written spaceandtimeon the presently in clearedout blankness the centerof Beirut;indeed, they will determine of the extentto whichthis spacecanbe regarded a blankness instead,as as or, a hauntedspace:a placeof memories, ghosts. I shouldaddat oncethatthe relationship betweenthesespatial narratives Lebanon's and national identity neverbe reducedto a simple can equivalence that whatever and visionultimately takesshapein central Beirutwillnot finallyhold all the answers the questions to surrounding thisidentity. Indeed,one cannotoveremphasize extentto whichthis the identity, eventhe veryexistence an entitycalledLebanon which and of to it supposedly corresponds, beendisputed. has Lebanon's narrative selfof understanding began with formative sectarianstrugglesin the 1860s (whose subsequent significance Lebanon's for national identity deterwas minedlargely underthe aegisof the various European empires wellas as the Ottoman Empire)l culminated the horrors the 1975-1990 and in of war, whichleftaround150,000deadand300,000wounded. warwas The in a sensefoughtoverdifferent constructions the nation.Foralthough of all nations all nationalisms artificial and are constructions, all nations not havefacedthe samedifficulties tryingto inventa community has of as Lebanon.Nor havemanynationspaid the terriblepricethat Lebanon has paidfor not havingsuccessfully cometo termswithitselfas suchan artificial entity(notthatsucha project self-understanding of needsto be understood strictly in nationalist terms,norin termsthatisolateLebanon fromthe restof the Arabworld).2
1. See Ussama Makdisi,"The Modernityof Sectarianismin Lebanon," Middle East
Report26 (Summer1996):23-26, 30.

2. Indeed, the questionof Lebanesenationalidentityis inseparablefrom the broader questionof nationaland communalidentityin the rest of the Arabworld.In anotheressay, I discussthe failureof the projectof nationalism the Arabworldand the relevanceof the in questionsof Palestineand of Lebanonfor contemporary Arabreevaluations nationalism of and national economic development.See Saree Makdisi,"'Post-Colonial' Literaturein a

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Wartimedamage to the city center.Photo by author.

Duringthe war,territories proliferated, definedaccording subnato tionalcommunity sectarian or identities. Otherspaceswereabandoned, mostdramatically so-called the GreenLinedividing andwestBeirut, east
Neocolonial World:Modern Arabic Culture and the End of Modernity," Boundary 2 22 (Spring 1995):85-1 15.

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and aboveall the veryheavily damaged center, city whichfor morethan fifteenyearsremained emptied-out marking graveyard naan site the of tionaldialogueand reconciliation.3 be sure,the questions To generated by the war will continueto be contestedat variouslevelsand through different modalities a reversal the termsof von Clausewitz's (in of famous dictum). However, central Beirutmust,I believe, seenas a keysitefor be the development contestation theseand otherquestions; it is and of and for this reasonthatthe process reconstruction of assumes significance a thatfarexceedsthe directly material termsin whichit hasalready begun to takeshape.This shapetakesthe formof the worknowbeingundertakenbythe newly invented joint-stock Lebanese Company the Develfor opmentand Reconstruction BeirutCentral of District, betterknownby its French acronym Solidere, whichnowhas legalor managerial control overthe land in the centerof the city.But here it becomesnecessary to explainwhatSolidere's proposed spatial narrative lookslikeandwhatare its originsand the originsof the company itself.

1. Berytus Delenda Est;or,'Xn Ancient for theFuture" City
Followingthe close of the traumaticevents of 1975-76 (which marked beginningof the Lebanese the war),the questionof whatto do aboutthe damageto the centraldistrictof Beirutwas firstopened for discussion. warseemedthen to be over,and various The publicand privateorganizations beganto consider proposals the reconstruction for effort. These discussions culminated the first officialplan, in 1977, in commissioned the Councilfor Developmentand Reconstruction by
3. See Kamal Salibi,A House of Many Mansions: The Hzstoryof Lebanon Reconsidered (Berkeley,1988). "In all but name,"Salibiwrote during the war,"Lebanontoday is a noncountry.Yet,paradoxically, there has not been a time when the Muslimsand Christiansof Lebanonhave exhibited, on the whole, a keener consciousnessof common identity,albeit with somewhatdifferentnuances." Thus, he goes on to say, The people of Lebanonremainas dividedas ever;the differencesamong them have come to be reflected geographically the effective cantonizationof their country, by and by massive population movementsbetween the Christianand Muslim areas which have hardenedthe lines of division.In the continuingnationalstruggle,however,the centralissue is no longer the questionof the Lebanesenationalallegiance, but the termsof the politicalsettlementwhichall sides to the conflict,certainlyat the popularlevel, generallydesire.Disgracedand abandonedby the world,it is possible that the Lebaneseare finallybeginningto discoverthemselves.[Pp. 2-3] Now that the war has indeed ended, it has been argued that central Beirut should serve as a site in which the spatializedsectarianism the war could be deconstructedand of hence as a site in which a new sense of nationalidentitycould be given spatialexpression, by,among other things,bringingtogether membersof the differentsects in a commonand collectivelyreinventedarea.

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to layout, the to (CDR), rebuild citycenteralongthelinesof its traditional its and in its restore centrality thelifeof Beirut, to improve infrastructure. the on was emphasis placed,however, the need to reintegrate Particular terms(thatis, to restorethe classand centerin both classand sectarian it that diversity had characterized beforethe war)and on the communal of need to ensurethe reintegration the centerinto the rest of the city's had urbanfabric.Beforethe war,the downtown servednot only as a hub centerbut also as a transport (allbus and and commercial cultural so there,for instance, that and routesoriginated terminated service-taxi moreoftenthannotwere partsof the cityor the country tripsto different routedthroughthe citycenter).AsJad Tabetpointsout, the 1977plan into capital a a highlighted desire"toremoldthe centerof the Lebanese while communities," at the sametimebearmeetingplacefor the various to the ing in mindthe needto "modernize centerin an attempt solvethe and of seriousproblems functioning accessBeirutfacedbeforethe war, and the whilemaintaining specificimageof its site, history, Mediterracharacter."4 neanand 'oriental' resumed, In anycase,the warwasnotyetover.In late 1977,fighting in of by the firstIsraeliinvasion Lebanon 1978and the secpunctuated in in ond Israeliinvasion 1982,whichculminated the siege(andtempoof westBeirutin the summerof thatyear.After raryIsraelioccupation) refugeesat the Sabraand Shatilarefugee of the massacre Palestinian forcesreturnedto Beirutin Sep"peacekeeping" camps,multinational fromBeirut to werecompelled withdraw tember1982,and the Israelis Lebanon. stripof southern defendedoccupied to andto retreat a heavily Onceagainthe warseemedto be over. firm engineering ownedbythe Leba Liban, private In 1983,OGER projectand RafiqHariri,took over the reconstruction anesebillionaire group Dar ala commissioned masterplan fromthe Arabconsultancy of In Handasah. late 1983,andin the absence a newofScialplan,demoliareaon the pretextof cleaningup someof the tion beganin the central unidenofficially remain up," This"cleaning whoseperpetrators damage. allegedthat they standbehindtotified(thoughit has been repeatedly of involvedthe destruction some of the project),5 day'sreconstruction as and structures, well as buildings surviving most significant district's of and and SoukAl-Nouriyeh SoukSursuq largesections Saifi without arguewerefalsepretenses, on institutions, whatcritics to recourse official
Lebanon,"in RecoveringBeirut: a 4. Jad Tabet, "Towards Master Plan for Post-War UrbanDesign and Post-WarReconstruction,ed. Samir Khalafand Philip S. Khoury (Leiden, 1993),p. 91. 5. See, for example, Nabil Beyhum et al., I'amarBeirut wa'lfursa al-da'i'a [The Reconstructionof Beirutand the Lost Opportunity](Beirut, 1992),p. 16. See also AssemSalaam, "Le Nouveau plan directeur du centre-villede Beyrouth,"in Beyrouth:Construirel'avenir, le reconstruire passe2 ed. Beyhum,Salaam,and Tabet(Beirut, 1996).

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(1977)plan for reconstrucfor and in totaldisregard the then-existing of calledfor the rehabilitation thoseareasof tion,whichhad specifically the citycenter.6 of anotherroundof fightingforcedthe cessation In 1984,however, shellingcausedfurand activities, intensive and planning reconstruction area.Whenthe warenteredanotherlull ther damageto the downtown was demolition carriedout in the downtown in 1986,furtherunofficial allegarea;the samepartiesthathadbeen behindthe 1983demolitions to a edly began implementing plan (bearingsome distantresemblance of that the currentSolidereproposals) calledfor the destruction a large of structures the city proportion up to 80 percent of the remaining the out this to According critics, wascarried without authorization center. instior approval or interference of any officialor governmental tution.7 at that of the Following finalparoxysm violence signalled lastthe end of onceagainfocusedon the reconstruction of the warin 1990,attention Andit wasin thiscontext centerof Beirut. damaged the nowveryheavily of took developments placethatenabledthe resumption the thatseveral
6. See Beyhum et al., I'amarBeir7ltwa'lfursa al-da'i'a, pp. 15-25, esp. pp. 15-21. 7. See ibid., p. 16.

FIG. 5.- Martyrs'Square after the war but before the Solidere demolitions, facing south; comparewith fig. l(a), which was taken from the same standpoint,to see the scale of the demolitions.All the buildingsin the photo have been removed.Photo by author.

FIG. 6. Aerial photographof central Beirut followingthe war.Solidere's perimeter, markedby the largeboulevards,is clearlyvisible.Note the Normandielandfillat the northern end of the photo; Placede l'Etoileand Martyrs' Squareare clearlyvisiblein the center. Source:Solidere.

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demolitions of kindof planningthathad firstbegunwiththe unofficial of Firstof all, 1983-86and thatultimately to the formation Solidere. led Liban, appointed the was as Fadelel-Shalaq, headof Hariri's the OGER headof CDR. Hashim As Sarkis pointsout, "ineffectwhatthishasmeant has is thatthe mainprivate organization the buildingindustry taken in The agencythatthe government overthe ofiicial planning advisory body. its Indeed, usedto controlprivate development nowreversed role."8 has of abdication of this development marked only the beginning the state's its authority anydirectrole it mighthaveplayedin the reconstrucand of discourse tionof central Beirut, thebeginning a political-economic and in we might identifyas Harirism, whichwould culminate 1992 when RafiqHaririhimselfbecameprime ministerof Lebanon.It is worth the of pointing thatHariri always out has regarded reconstruction central that Beirutas the crowning project the economic"rebirth" he claims of to represent. of Also in 1991, a new set of masterplans for the reconstruction (the firm centralBeirutwas releasedby Dar al-Handasah consultancy Liban 1983).Theseplans, in thathadbeen firstcommissioned OGER by architect HenriEdde, whichhadbeen drawn by the Daral-Handasah up denounced an outrageous as calledforwhathasbeen fairly unanimously total demolitionof whatever rebuilding projectto followthe virtually planincluded suchfeatures structures remained the citycenter. in Edde's tradecenter" and as the creation an artificial of islandto housea "world the (which a is an eighty-meter-wide boulevard rivalling Champs-Elysees overpasses, meresixtymeterswide!), wellas a streetlayout,including as bearingno resemblance eitherwhathad been therebeforeor to the to wouldhave urbangrainof the restof Beirut.Thisplan,as Tabetargues, of all made the city centeran isolated"island modernity,"9 but cut oS the fromthe restof the city.In the faceof a huge publicoutcry, CDRand Daral-Handasah wereforcedto scrapthe scheme,and theyset to work on a newmaster plan. The last keyeventof 1991had to do withthe questionof property in but rightsin centralBeirut.Giventhe destruction the citycenter, also rights,the diffusion propertyof theincreased fragmentation property of disputes,the idea wasput forrightsclaimants relatedinheritance and all wardto havea singleprivate estatefirmexpropriate the landin real process.l° Since the main the city centerand take over the rebuilding (the governmental body in chargeof reconstruction CDR)had already
AttitudesToward 8. Hashim Sarkis,"Territorial Claims:Architectureand Post-War the Built Environment," RecoveringBeirut, p. 114. in Lebanon,"p. 95. See also Beyhum, 9. Tabet, "Towards MasterPlan for Post-War a "Beyrouth coeur des debats," Cahiersde l'Orient32-33 (1994): 103. au Les 10. Some estimates suggested that there were as many as 250,000 property-rights claimantsin the central district, since Lebaneselaw protects claims not only by property ownersand their descendantsbut by lessorsand their descendantsas well.

FIG. 7. Martyrs' Square, facing north towardthe sea. All the buildingshave been removed to make way for a boulevardlinking Fouad Chehab Avenue to the port. Photo by author.

FIG. 8. Martyrs' Square,facingnorth. Note the poster in the background,presenting whatthis scene is supposed to look like after the reconstruction.Photoby author.

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beenplacedunderthe leadership thoseleaningtoward creation of the of sucha firm,thisbody(in cooperation properly with private-sector interests, notablyHaririand OGERLiban,that werealso in supportof the singlefirmconcept) commissioned another studyfromDaral-Handasah, which,unsurprisingly, calledfor the creation a singlefirmto takeover of the centerof Beirut.The newplanalsocalledfor the demolition most of of the remaining structures the centerin orderto facilitate unfetin an teredlarge-scale development project. despitethe growing But support for thisnewplanin certainpublic-and private-sector circles, opposition to it alsogrewfromboththe generalpublicand a protestgroupthatwas formedto debatetheideaandto tryto generate possible alternatives it. to Evenas the planwasbeingwidely debated, however, official sanction for it wasbeingconsolidated, mostimportantly the formof lawsand in decreescallingfor the institution a singlecompany takeover the of to real-estate rightsin centralBeirut.The mostimportant these is Law of 117 of 7 December1991,whichprovidedthe legal framework the for constitution such a company, law that has been repeatedlydeof a nouncedas unconstitutional." shouldbe noted,however, thislaw It that in no way mandatedthe creationof Soliderespecifically as such or that is, the collection privateinterests of and powerful individuals who gathered together Solidere's as boardof founders 1992.Thuswithout in regardto the public or even to thosewhoseproperty wouldbe expropriated the company did Solidere by comeintobeing:the ultimate expressionof the dissolution any real distinction of betweenpublicand private interests moreaccurately, decisive or, the colonization the forof mer by the latter.As the Lebanese architect publicplannerAssem and Salaam argues, "entrusting Beirut's Central Business District (CBD) redevelopment the CDRis a typical to example the dangers of inherent the in state's abdication its role in orienting controlling of the most of and one sensitive reconstruction development projects the country."'2 in In the springof 1992,furtherdemolition begun in the downwas townarea,thistimeon behalfof the government, thoughthe reconeven struction plan as such hadnotyetbeen approved evendefined. only or Not werebuildings thatcouldhavebeen repaired broughtdownwith highexplosivedemolition charges,but the explosives used in each instance werefarin excessof whatwasneededforthejob, thereby causing enough damageto neighboring structures requiretheirdemolition well.'3 to as Thus,foreachbuilding "legitimately" demolished several otherbuildings were damagedbeyondrepair,declaredhazards, and then demolished
11. See "Al-sharika al-iqariyya al-itarayn fi al-dustouriwa al-qanouni" [The Legal and the Constitutional Aspectsof the Real EstateCompany],in I'amarBeirut wa'lfursa al-da'i'a, pp. 87-88. 12. Salaam,"Lebanon's Experiencewith Urban Planning:Problemsand Prospects," in RecoveringBeirut, p. 198. 13. See Beyhumet al., I'amarBeirut wa'lfursa al-da'i'a, pp. 15-20.

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that,as It themselves withthe samezealfor big explosions. is estimated effortsbeganin by a resultof such demolition, the time reconstruction plan releaseof the newDaral-Handasah in earnestfollowing formal the area in 80 1993,approximately percentof the structures the downtown only a beyondrepair, whereas around thirdhadbeen hadbeendamaged duringthe as reducedto suchcircumstances a resultof damageinflicted damage been tothecenter has done words, irreparable more waritself.l4 other In and itthan to in ofBeirut those claim heinterestedsalvag?ng rebuilding had by who and of preceding years shelling house-tofifteen of been during course the done the house combat. 15 grew. was As this demolition beingcarriedout, though,opposition was architects a In the springof 1992,for instance, groupof concerned reconstruction alternatives the (stillunofficial) to formedto formulate a to plan. In Mayof thatyear,this grouporganized conference debate issuesof aesthetic,cultural,social,economic,and politicalsignificance The effort,and to call a halt to the demolition.l6 in any reconstruction deof conference calledfor the necessity publicand governmental also concouldbe madeandurgedthatappropriate batebeforeanydecisions and to other issues of concern sideration given to their proposals be by publicdiscussions the holdersof property raisedin the large-scale area. rightsin the downtown atand In spiteof all thesecalls,however, in spiteof the increasing elections parliamentary beinggivento the national tentionandcoverage campaigning, begun in earnestin the summerof that year (electoral Beirut), government the the overdowntown 1992,overshadowed debates of of whosearticles the passeda seriesof lawsenabling creation Solidere, in incorporation approved Julyof thatyear.One of the last actsof were (shortlyafter the electionsand before it rethe previousgovernment in by signedand was replaced the Hariricabinet), fact,was the formal brandnew masterplan on 14 October approval Dar al-Handasah's of withthe anxietyand concern of 1992.Thus in an atmosphere national in elections, withno publicparticipation and outcome the September of decisionmaking the futureof the heartof Beirutwas decided,long was investments been made in it. Demolition had beforeany (official)
14.Seeibid.,p.l9. 15. Salaam,for one, points out that morebuildingswere destroyedby bulldozersthan y by the war.Accordingto Salaam,"I1 a eu plus d'immeublesdetruitspar les bulldozersque bordaientencore la place des Martyrs.Elles ont par la guerre. En 1992, des constructions 3 ete demoliesen six mois"(LeMonde, June 1995). Some cynics,in fact, assertthat much of the fightingin the downtownarea duringthe warwas paid for in order to achieveas much destructionas possible;Najah Wakeemhas made this allegationpubliclyon severaloccasions. Such viewsare certainlycynical,but given the manytwistsand turns of the war,they cannotbe entirelyruled out of the question;in any case, manyseeminglyequallyimprobadocumented. ble events have been substantially 16. The papers from this conferenceare collectedin Beyrouth.

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resumedin 1994and, by the end of thatyear,as I'vesaid,muchof the centerof the cityhadbeen razed. Solidereitselfmakeslittlereference its prehistory to previous to or plansfor reconstruction the centerof Beirut.Formally in established on 5 May1994,the company in its information says bookletsthatit representsthe largest urbanredevelopment project the l990s. Its solereferof ence to the recenthistory the citycenteris as follows: of Located thehistorical geographical of thecity,thevibrant at and core financial, commercial administrative of thecountry, Beiand hub the rut Central District cameunderfirefromall sidesthroughout most of the sixteenyearsof fighting. the end of the war, areaof the At that city was afflictedwith overwhelming destruction, total devastation of the infrastructure, presence squatters several the of in areas,and extremefragmentation entanglement property and of rightsinvolving owners, tenantsand lease-holders. 17 Solidere thuspresents itselfas a healingagency, designedto helpcentral Beirutrecover fromits "afflictions."makesno mentionof the previous It history reconstruction onlybecausethesehistories not existin of not do officialtermsbut alsobecauseof the company's peculiarand contradictoryrelationship history(to whichI shallreturnshortly). to Solidere's capital consists twotypesof shares, of together initially valued at U.S.$1.82billion.TypeA shares,initiallyvalued at U.S.$1.17 billion,wereissuedto the holdersof expropriated property the downin townarea,in "proportion" the relative to valueof theirproperty claims, as adjudicated the company's by boardof founders. further A issueof 6.5 milliontypeB shares released investors, was to bringing newcapital in at an initialstockofferof U.S.$ per share(andindeedthe stockoffering 100 was denominated U.S. dollars,not Lebanese in pounds).Withina few weeks,untilits closinginJanuary 1994,the stockoffering beenoverhad subscribed 142 percent(thatis, U.S.$926million,offeredby some by twentythousand subscribers). Thereis, however, important an caveatto all this. Stocksmayonly be purchased held by certainindividuals or in the followingorder of priority: originalholdersof propertyrights the (of all nationalities, though presumably majority the would have been Lebanese); Lebanesecitizensand companies; Lebanesestate and the publicinstitutions; personsof Lebanese and origin,as wellas the citizens and companiesof other Arabcountries.Non-Arabs, unless they were originallypropertyholders, are thus not permitted to buy shares (though, because specialexemptions strictLebanese regulating of to laws the ownership landbyforeigners, willbe allowed purchase of they to real estatefromthe company oncelandandbuildings placedon the marare
17. Solidere,InformationBooklet1995, p. 5; hereafterabbreviated IB.

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ketby Solidere). Furthermore, is a maximum there individual shareholding limitof 10 percent. Solidere shares nowbeingexchanged the company's priare on own vatestockexchange on the official (not BeirutStockExchange, whichthe company circumvented). of December1994,shareshad already has As appreciated valueby some 50 percent,thoughtheyhavecomedown in considerably sincethen.l8In additionto the expectedreturnsand dividends(which shouldaccelerate buildings landareputon the maras and ket),whichthe boardof founders estimated approximately percent at 18 overa twenty-five period,the company its investors not be year and will taxed,eitheron incomefromthe project on capitalgains,for the first or ten years.In factthe firstsalesof landarealready process, in reportedly at a priceof U.S.$950per built-upsquaremeter (considering the that project entailsa built-up areaof some4.5 millionsquare meters, can one get fromthissomesenseof the valueof Solidere's property).l9 Solidere's massiveadvertising campaignnot only plasteredhuge postersall over Beirutand the restof Lebanon also tookout ads in but foreignnewspapers magazines. Lebanon," and "In readsone of Solidere's adsin the Financial Times,"everyone knowswe mustrebuildBeirut's city centre.Weknowhow."20 Another in the New YorkTimes,proudly ad, proclaims,"We've investedin the futureof an ancientcity.''2l Large-scale mailings glossyinformation of booklets, maps,and even a miniature set of picturestakenfromoversized postershavespreadthroughout Lebanon ("Lecentrevillevousinvite...."). All of this,incidentally, appeared beforethecompany itselfhadactually comeintobeing(theadsweretechnically sponsored Solidere's by "board founders"). of In anycase,whatfewpeoplein Lebanon seemto realize thatSoliis dere is not going to rebuildthe downtown area:it is going to oversee the rebuilding the downtown of area.Otherthanthe infrastructure, the company limititselfto at mostabouta thirdof the construction will of actual buildings. be morespecific, To Solidere according its inforwill, to mation booklets, havefourprincipal functions: to supervise exefirst, the cution of the government-authorized reconstruction plan; second, to finance rebuild infrastructure; to rehabilitate and the third, certain buildings and structures the development the rest of the real estate; and of and, fourth,to manageand sell these properties, buildings, and other facilities. One of the strikingfeaturesof the development the infraof structure thatnot onlywillthe Lebanese is statedenyitselfanypossible taxrevenues fromthisdevelopment the firstten yearsbutit willeven for
18. As of February1997, sharesare tradedat around U.S.$110. 19. See al-Hayat, 4 July 1995. 20. Financial Times,9July 1993, p. 14. 21. New York Times,22 Nov. 1993, p. C11.

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go so far as to actually for the infrastructure pay repairs(estimated by the company U.S.$565millionin 1993 dollars), at largelyby allocating the company extraspacefor development an areaof land to be rein claimed fromthe sea.22 Solidere's rebuilding project encompasses surface a areaof about1.8 million square meters, whichwillincludethe reclamation over600,000 of squaremetersfrom the sea. The plan will involvethe development of over 4.5 millionsquaremetersof built-upspace,of whicharoundhalf willbe dedicated residential to units.Approximately of the areawill half be owned,managed, ultimately by Solidere. and sold Muchof the restof it willbe ceded to the state(infrastructure, parks,open spaces), an and additional 80,000square meters exempted (government reliare lots and giousbuildings, whichrevertto theirprevious owners,thatis, the state andthe various religious communities). Some260buildings the center in havebeendesignated recoverable hencesparedthe bulldozer as and and dynamite crews; theirformerowners otherinterested or partiesmayredevelopand refurbish them.Anyone, including formerowners(whoare given priority), wishingto recuperate such a building,however, would haveto payto thecompany 12percent a surcharge theestimated on value of the lot;theymustalsobe prepared repairthebuilding to withina twoyeartime frameand subjecttheirplansto an architectural issued brief by Solidereand underthe company's strictsupervision. Solidere's recuperation briefsareintended preserve to eachrecuperated building's original externalfeaturesand faSades that the centraldistrictretainsits so previous (surface) appearance the greatest to extentpossible so that and thecentral district be woven(visually) therestof the urban can into fabric of Beirut.
22. Accordingto IB, "theCompanyshallbe reimbursed the Statefor all infrastrucby ture costs incurred,in one or a combinationof the followingways:in cash, in State-owned land within the BCD [BeirutCentralDistrict],in land within the reclaimedland zone, or in concessionsfor the exploitationof infrastructure services." Since the state is going to end up paying for the projectin the end, many criticsof the Solidereplan argue that, at the very least and if for no other reason than this-the state should have much more of a direct role in the company'saffairsand even that the state should simply seek financing from multilateral lending agenciesor from banksand manage the reconstruction itself, by reapingat least some of the benefitsin the form of tax and other revenues,of whichit is in considerableneed, rather than passing those on to a privatecompanyandultimately paying for thereconstruction any case. It should be noted that critics of the Solidere plan have in argued that the real cost for the infrastructure the center of the city is in the range of in U.S.$50-U.S.$70million, a figure well within the reach of the Lebanesegovernment;see, for example, Le Monde,3 June 1995. Since so much of the support for the single-firm concept has been argued in terms of the government'ssupposed inabilityto pay for the infrastructure and hence the need for privateinvestmentas opposed to public expenditure-this is a crucialissue. Criticssuggest that the government,now firmlyin the hands of certain private sector interests,has abandoned its own role in the city center in favor of these same interests.

CriticalInquiry

1997 Spring

679

of masterplancallsfor the creation a livelyand attractive Solidere's mixtureof officespace,resia featuring balanced urbancorein Beirut, promeand dentialareas,commercial retailzones,parksand tree-lined withthe and twoyachtclubs.In contrast nades,as wellas beachfacilities in plan 1991Daral-Handasah (which a waylookslikea delibernotorious architects efforthasbeenmadebySolidere's a ateredherring), concerted KabbaniOussama Harvard-educated andurbanplanners led by the or appearance streetplan of fromthe traditional not to departvisually (exceptin the areato be reneighborhoods the citycenteror adjoining claimedfromthe sea, whichwillbe basedon a grid layoutwith wider bookletsrely heavilyon visualand advertising streets).The company's betweenthe ruinedcentraldistrictas it stands contrasts photographic daysof the 1960sand in the today, bustleof the district the headyprewar downtown manicured of 1970s,and the promise a poisedand elegantly in sometime the next ten or fifteenyears. Dar of criticisms the previous al-Handasah to In response thevarious of plan, the currentmasterplan highlightsthe intendedreintegration It will area. the centraldistrictwithinthe greaterBeirutmetropolitan in buildings the historic of alsoincludethe plannedpreservation certain smallarea from the grandSerailto in core (particularly the relatively of the Square); "reconstruction" some of the old souks;the Martyrs' residenand of plannedpreservation the lower-class lower-middle-class tial areaswithinthe centraldistrict(thoughit seemsfairlyobviousthat and classidentities willprobatheseareaswillnot takeon theirprevious and as a citizens);23 bly be pricedbeyondthe reachof most Lebanese criticsmotivated and the nod toward moreculturally environmentally whichwillinclude park(onthe landfill), of creation a seaside the planned including facilities," refersto as "somecultural whatone of the booklets thereis a policythatlimits and a library a centerfor the arts.In addition, hotels,restaurants, boulevard, and buildings callsfora seafront high-rise withBeirut district the linking central and cafes,gardens, a newhighway threemilesawayto the south. whichis barely Airport, International of A majorfeatureof the Solidereplan allowsfor the preservation finds,someof whichwillremainin theirpresent variousarchaeological park to othersof whichwillbe relocated an archaeological near locations, canof richness the centraldistrict The archaeological Square. Martyrs' in the not be overestimated: earliestsettlements Beirutdate to some by and 65,000yearsago,andthe cityhasbeen inhabited rebuilt virtually archaeological Present in culture the easternMediterranean. everymajor
but 23. Propertypricesin Beirutare todaynot only astronomical out of all proportion to the local economy;it is not unusual for a new apartmentto be priced in the region of one million dollars. It should be said that Solidere claimsthat its residentialunits will be aimed at a varietyof income groups,but it remainsto be seen to whatextent this claimwill be realized.

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digs in betweenworkon the infrastructure, whichis alreadyunderway organized variousLebanese by universities financedby Soliand dereand international agencies,haveuncovered medieval Ottoman and structures, even earlierfinds(Mamluke, and Crusader, Arab,Byzantine, Persian,Roman,Greek,Phoenician) Canaanite, well as Bronze and as and StoneAge),including recently the uncovered wallsof the Phoenician city,whichdate fromthe secondmillennium One of the prizesthat B.C. archaeologists hope to locateis the Roman school,the firstin the still law RomanEmpireand one of the most important until its destruction in an earthquake. Originally somewhat equivocal aboutthe archaeological dimensions the reconstruction of project, Solidere seemsto be taking now it veryseriously. According the archaeologists spoketo, someof the to I major infrastructure (including work underground canals partof the and road network) be divertedor redesigned orderto workaround will in the recentlyuncovered ancientPhoenician walls.The redeveloped city soukarea(essentially shopping a mall)willbe constructed alongthe axes of the ancient whichhaveremained city, largely samesinceearlyHelthe lenistictimes.At the same time, of course,the company turningthe is architectural archaeological and preservation certainsitesto commerof cial advantage; Soliderestrategist quotedrecently Le Moruie, one was in saying, havebeen accused the destruction the architectural "we of of patrimony Beirut; of that's false,and,moreto the point,it'snot in our inter-

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site in the oldest part of the city. Note the ancient city FIC. 16. An archaeological wallsand the ruins of a Crusadercastle. Photo by author.

est. Like the archaeology,it forms part of the marketing [program]of
Solidere."24

urban design team is In visual terms at least (or at most), Kabbani's trying to ensure that the new city center will not look like a foreign body in the heart of Beirut. However,the actual details of the actual construction of actual buildings remains, so far as one can tell, a mystery.We do know that the appearance and faSadesof recuperated buildings cannot be altered in any way (though internallythey can be entirelyredesigned). But other than that we know little or nothing. There was, for instance, no outright winner in the 1994 InternationalIdeas Competitionfor the "reconstruction"of the souks. In reality, this subproject could only amount to a constructionfrom scratch,since the souks were razed, either by Solidere itself or by its variouspredecessors(though it is worth asking why this project relentlesslyclings to the language of the re- rather than admittingthat it is not about the resurrection,redemption,recuperation, reinvention, remembrance of that past but rather its invention from jury of architectsreceived 357 detailed proposscratch).An international als from 51 countries,of which 3 were named winners.In effect, however, no one, or at least no one outside of Solidere, knows in any detailed way what the future "souk"area will look like. In any case, Solidere'sconcern for (indeed we might call it an obsession with) appearancesshould not obscure the primaryemphasis of the
24. Jean-Paul Lebas, quoted in Le Moruie,3 June 1995.

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project, which lies underneath and behind the various faSades and at the level of infrastructure its greatest concern all along. In a sense, the infrastructureprojectis at the heart of the matter here; it will be covered up by faSades that may turn out to have a "Levantine"flavor but that could just as easily have had no flavor at all (as with the original Dar al-Handasahplan). Flavorin this context amounts to little more than a marketing advantage, a way to sell the underlying infrastructure;the arcompany strategistquoted above goes on to say that the downtown's chaeological and architecturalpatrimonywill form an essential element in the competition between the rebuilt center of Beirut and other regional centers, such as Dubai, that offer a similartechnicalinfrastructure but that lack Beirut'shistoricalrichnessand hence the kind of flavorthat Solidere can lay claim to. "Wewill play this card,"he promises. The reclaimed land, for instance, will require an impressiveinfrastructureto protect it from the sea, consistingof submergedcaissonsand a lagoon formed by artificial breakwaters.The new road network will be backed up by a series of tunnels and extensive underground parking facilities(for 40,000 cars).The centraldistrictwill have its own dedicated underground power supply system. It will also have the most advanced in infrastructure the world.The telecommunications telecommunications serviceswill allowfor high-speed data communications,transactionaldatabases, and of course international communicationsvia satellite earth stationsand internationalsubmarinefiber-opticcable links. Beirut'sbasic

684

Saree Makdisi

LayingClaim Beirut to

copperphonenetwork be backed in the central will up district digital by fiber-optic capable carrying lines of videosignals wellas audio.Finally, as the districtwill be coveredwith GSMcellularserviceprovidedby no fewerthanten basestations (GSM represents leadingedge of digital the mobiletelecommunications).25 Finally, centraldistrict,whichis althe readycloseto the city'sport,willbe servedby Beirut's newlyexpanded international airport (which beingupgraded serve6 millionpassenis to gers annually) the new expressway. via And, for those who preferthe luxuryof travelling yacht,two marinas be directly by will incorporated intothe central district.

2. Beirut?Or,a Cityzuithout History?
Beforeresuming reading the overall my of Solidere scheme,I would liketo dwellfor a momenton the "reconstruction"the soukareaand of on whatit mighttell us aboutSolidere's peculiar relationship history. to The soukproject formspartof the firstphaseof the overallreconstruction effort.Phaseone is designedto set up two majormagnetsto draw life backinto the centraldistrict the banking areaaroundRiadal-Solh Square Placede l'Etoile, the soukarea. and and I havealready mentioned that,evenfollowing releaseof a sketch the of a master plan,it remains unclear whatthe newsoukwilllooklike.The company's mostrecent(1995)information bookletsaysthatthe attempt behindthe "souk" projectis to "recapture lifestyle a formerly identified withthe citycenterand re-create marketplace a wheremerchants prosper andallenjoyspending longhours" p. 25).Elsewhere thebook(IB, in let, we are told that "theclearingof the old souks,whichaccompanied the clearing demolition buildings sitesin the BCDmandated and of and by the Master Plan,pavedthe wayforreconstruction thatdistrict of over an areaof 60,000square meters." district deliberately This heavily damaged,we willrecall,in the demolitions 1983and 1986and finally of pulverizedin the summerof 1994 will, as the bookletgoes on to say, "incorporate department stores, retailoutlets,supermarkets, theaters, offices,exhibition areas,residences parking and facilities. The totalbuiltup surface areawillnear 130,000square meters" p. 17).Clearly, (IB, the mostpressing question hereis not the one abouthowa collection Pizza of
25. With an expected 1 millionelectronicphone lines and 750,000 cellularlines, for a populationof 3.5 million,Lebanonshould soon have the greatestnumberof phone lines per capitaof anycountryin the world;it is here, though, that this statistic,used internationally as a benchmarkof "development," revealsits shortcomings,since these extremelyexpensive services will be availableonly to a relativelysmall proportion of the Lebanese population.

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Huts,Safeways, Walgreens, McDonald's, BodyShops,BurgerKings,Benettons, Gaps,Blockbuster Videos, Tower and Records gathered together and given the benediction the termsouk will recapture lifestyle of any otherthanthatof the postmodern shoppingmall,whichis clearlywhat it wouldinevitably like,largelybecausethat'swhatit wouldbe. In look fact,all we knowis that,whilecallingitselfa souk,thisareacan amount to nothingmorethana postmodern pastiche the conceptof the souk. of Forhow,in anycase,couldone re-create something a souk,whichis like not onlythe product a long historical of process is alsocharacterized but andevendefinedby spontaneity aboveall heterogeneity? and Indeed,to speakof planning soukis something a contradiction terms.Thus, a of in thesouksubproject be takennotmerely symptomatic thelarger may as of Solidere project as a synecdoche it. but for Solidere's publications makeuse of the language memory afof and fectto characterize theypromise be theflavor the newcentral what will of district. it seemsclearthatthe simulacral But effectof the reconstruction projectis to be achievedspecifically solelyin visual termsor, to be and precise, termsof appearance faSade. in and Hencethe soukareawillbe calleda soukbecauseit will(supposedly) somehow looklikewhata souk lookslike.Butwhatdoes a souklooklike?In particular, did Beirut's what old souklooklike? Suddenly particularly a striking aspectof all this planning becomes quiteclear. Assuming goeswellandthe soukgets"rebuilt,"willonly all it be a matter yearsbeforethe generation Lebanese remembered of of that the old souk,the old Beirut,willbe gone.The souksand the old downtownhavebeen gone since 1975,afterall;peopleof my owngeneration canbarely remember whattheywerelike,andanyone bornafter1970or so can haveno ideaat all whatthe soukswerelike.(I myselfhaveonlya fewsketchy memories.) courseone couldgo offto Tripoli Damascus Of or or Aleppoto see whatotherArabsouksare like,or to Istanbul other or citiesin the regionto see whatotherLevantine soukslook like;but it is in the "nature" I mayuse thatlanguage) souksthateachone hasits (if of distinctive identityand even that differentsouksin the samecity have thelrownc.lstlnctlve ldentltles. Then whycallthis areaa souk?Whynotjust callit a shopping district,likeBaltimore's InnerHarbor othersuchprojects the U.S.and or in Europe(of whichDisney's U.S. historytheme park near Washington, D.C., wouldhavebeen anothervariant), whichtime and historyas in muchas more"material" objects commodified effectively up get and put for sale and consumption? Afterall,just as MTVand CNNjockeyfor positionon Lebanese airwaves, streetsof Beirutare already the witness to an astonishing proliferation American of globalconsumer-culture outlets. Herethe logicof the simulacrum becomesalmostinescapable. Guy Debord's famoussloganfromThe Societyof the Spectacle,"theimagehas

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becomethe finalformof commodity reification,"26as Fredric is, Jameson hasargued,now evenmoreaptforthe "prehistory" a society of bereftof allhistoricity, one whoseownputative is littlemorethana set of dustyspectapast cles. In faithfulconformity poststructuralist to linguistic theory, the pastas "referent" findsitselfgradually bracketed, then effaced and altogether, leavingus withnothingbut texts.27 Whatwillpresumably appearin a fewyearsas the newBeirut"souk" will presentitselfas recapturing re-creating old souk,the lifestyle and the of happycustomers ask-no-questions and merchants (thatis, harking back to the mythof the Levantine entrepot, the happyLebanon the good to of old days,to a never-never land that has only ever existedin Solidere's booklets), henceit willclaimto re-present pastand the historical and the collective memory the old Beirutsouksin its ownspatiality. willapof It
26. Quoted in FredricJameson, Postmodernism, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism or, (Durham,N.C., 1992),p. 18. 27. Ibid.

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pear or, to be precise, it will be marketed as a re-creation of what was there before, rather than as something that is entirely novel, something that, properly speaking, has no historicaldepth because it has no past at all, because it is part of a much broader process that has from the beginning tried to strip away the past and lay bare the surface of the city as sheer surface spectacle and as nothing more than that. Indeed, the representationof the past in visual or iconic terms is a recurringtheme in Solidere'svariousinformationbooklets. One of these booklets, appropriatelyentitled Wasat al-tasaoulat (The Center of Controversy), published in 1993 in response to various criticismsof the reconstruction project, incorporatesvisual references to the past by including thin slices of old photographsinserted at the inside marginsof its pages. The visual effect is to make it seem as though there is an old photograph "underneath"each facing page, which is only partly protruding (so that you can barely determine the content of the photograph; because it is grainy and black and white, all that'sclear is that it is of something old). But if you try to turn the page to see the rest of the photo, you realize that it's not there after all; it just seemsto be there, as though it were serving as the figurationof some kind of iconic or visual unconsciousness of the book: there, but not there, an absent presence. As soon as you try

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of to get accessto the full "image" the past (foras I say the pastis preimsentedonly in visualterms),you realizethatit'sonly a fragmentary the "underneath" wholethathasdisappeared of age, a fragment a larger from text, and that there is no "underneath" weightof the "present" as becausethe text itselfis literally whichthe printappearsto protrude depthless. wellas metaphorically bookletsis the of the But undoubtedly most interesting Solidere's littlebookletseemsto be It? one calledBeirut: Do WeKnozlJ This colorful but format above givennot onlyits cartoon aimedat ajuvenileaudience, wantsto know Its all its storyline. premiseis thata littleboycalledFarid "what cityis."He askshismotherto explain.Hereit is worthquoting this at somelengththe initialdialoguethatsetsup the storyline. Whatis thiscity? my in I wasinvolved organizing thingsandhadnot been paying was to attention whatFarid doing.I lookedup at him. Whatcity,Farid? Thisone! albumthathe had takenfrom And he pointedto a photograph my table.I cranedmy neckto see wherehis fingerwaspointing. That'sBeirut,Farid!
Beirut>!

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At this point in the text we see a reproduction of a classic postcard of Squarefrom before the war.The storylineresumes: Martyrs' He looked up at me in surprise.And he said: We live in Beirut. And I've never seen these buildings in my life! I smiled. His life, which had begun during the war! How could he believe that this was indeed Beirut?So I explained. -These are pictures of Beirut from before the war. Of course you've never seen it. And I turned over a few of the pages. -Especially these, Farid;these are pictures of the heart of Beirut. And all you and your friends know and experience are its extremities,like the extremitiesof the body. He asked: -And is the city like a body? -Exactly like a body.A city is born, it grows,it changes, exactly like a body.And it's the same with Beirut, our beloved city.28 It becomes clear that the booklet'sstorylineinvolves Faridtaking a tour of the old Beirut. This is in other words not merely a narrativeof the history of Beirut as Solidere would like that history to appear but a fullblownguidebook,completewith a map, a legend, and a route that should be followedthrough the center of the city,with descriptionsof the various significantstructuresor ruins given along the way. There is just one problem with this guidebook: the area which it proposes to guide young Farid through no longer exists. Published in 1994-even as the center of Beirut was being wiped clean by Solidere historyof the cenitself-this booklet amounts not merely to a children's ter of Beirut but to a guidebookwhose referent has disappearedand has been replaced by the textual images that the book itself contains. It is a guidebookto a space that can no longer be found anywhereexcept in the sort of textual (and specificallyvisual) forms that so dazzle little Farid. One can only imagine a real-life Farid taking the map and guidebook downtown and trying to follow the meandering route that it charts through a wastelandthat has taken the place of the actualmaterialbuildings that once stood there. Or did they? As this little guidebook gets closer to the present and starts dealing with the war, we are presented with various dazzling examples of computer-generatedgraphics.Above a photo of Allenby Street as it was left after the street fighting, for example, there is a computer-generated photo of the same street as it is supposed to appear after it has been refurbishedand cleaned up. The computerimage is clearlybased on the same wartime photo (for example, the perspective and the borders in
[Beirut? Do We Know It?] (Beirut, 1994), pp. 2-3. Hal 28. Solidere, Beirut: na'arafha?

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each of the imagesare identical). However, photograph a simuthis of latedfuture as easilycouldbe of the old prewar just Allenby Street(that is, there'snothingparticularly futuristic aboutit; it lookslike the same streetas in the wartimephoto only withoutthe damageand with the addition a fewcars,a fewtrees,andsometastefully of interspersed pedestrians). Hence,onceagain,Solidere's slogan: Beirut AnAncient for City the Future,in whichfutureand past becomeall but indistinguishable, the one a replication the other,onlyit is not clearwhichis the replicaof tion and whichthe originalor whetherthere was an originalto begin with. Whatthe Solidereprojectrepresents, a sense, is an attemptto in spectacularize history. Thuswhatmighthavebeencalledthe flowof Beirut'spastor the collective memories the cityare worked of into the Solidereproposals booklets and solelyin visualform,in a pastiche version of the historyof centralBeirutand of Lebanon,one that in representing

692

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to LayingClaim Beirut

of termsas the "growth" a of the imposition spatiallayersin corporeal into the translates passageof time into appearance, specsingle"body"
tacle.29

theremighthavebeen to whatalternatives Andyetit is worthasking theremightstillbe and whetheralternative all this or whatalternatives it In of conceptions historyare stillpossible.30 retrospect, becomesquite effortto wipethe clearthatfromat least 1983therehasbeena concerted in associations of surface centralBeirutclean,to purifyit of all historical pure to the formof its buildings, renderit purespace,purecommodity, (in war potential memorial a realestate.The mostobviousand striking statuein its that country has allbut forgotten war),the shrapnel-scarred repaired itsbulletholeserasedand Square, be completely will Martyrs' referents the citycenter(andhistory in over covered just as the historical And itself)arebeingerasedin the reconstruction. in one sensethe demointerestsstandingbehindthem financial lition crewsand the powerful Thus, what becomesimfait have producedan irreversible accompli. as construction, such,but rather portantat this stageisn'tthe material and projectrepresents how it ties into otherprowhatthe construction What and in in cessesandotherdiscourses Beirut, Lebanon, in theworld. modesthroughwhich I wantto addressnow is the political-discursive of in and inscribes makesinterventions the surface the city. thisactivity

Phones Eat Or, 3. "Enrichissez-vous!" Let Them Cellular
de Tel "'Enrichissez-vous!' semblebien etre le coeurde l'ideologie la Georges Corm and the Thus reconstruction."3' writes economist historian In de in a recentissueof LesCahiers l'Orient. the sameissueof thejournal, project repargues the Solidere that NabilBeyhum the urbansociologist interests of of resentsan embodiment the "confusion" publicandprivate Indeed, in by symbolized the arrival powerof Haririand his cabinet.32
29. Here it becomes importantto bear in mind the distinctionthat Jameson makes LogXc or, betweenparodyand postmodernpastiche.See Jameson,Postmodernism,theCultural p. ofLateCapitalism, 17. 30. The latterquestion,the questionof history,I plan to take up in a differentessay, Beirut:The Space of Memoryand the Time of War." "Remembering de Les Ideologieset paradoxes," Cahiers l'Orient 31. GeorgesCorm,"LaReconstruction: 32-33 (1994):85. 32. Beyhumwrites: Le role de l'Etatcommearbitreetait decrie par les promoteurssoit par ideologiesoit pour realiserleur objectifa courtterme. La confusionentre interetspriveset interets publicsqui etait symboliseepar l'ariveede Haririau pouvoiravec son equipe, sans qu'ils demissionnentde leurs postes dans leurs firmes privees, risquaitd'aggraver encore les problemesmeme si elle pouvaitfaciliterles choses. [Beyhum,"Beyrouth p. au coeur des debats," 103]

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project whichneeds of criticisms the Solidere one of the mostpersistent as I'm of a discourse identifying Haras to be understood the centerpiece but interests publicand private it not onlyconfuses irism hasbeen that asks "How," by of the colonization the former the latter. thatit represents Sarkis,"do we define publicspace,now that the stateis no longerthe publiclife, but a groupof privateentrepreagencykeen on promoting theirbusinesses?"33 urbanlife to promote neurswanting the is seemto represent precisely withand WhatSolidere Harirism one eringawayof the state,whatever mighthavecalleda publicsphere And by and or civilsociety, theirfinaland decisivecolonization capital. of avoidsany discussion perhapsit is for this reasonthat the company WhatSoliidentityexceptin termsof visualpastiche. national Lebanese of narratives collecof dereoffersinsteadof a redemption the competing of tive memoryor nationalidentityis an emptying-out those collective definedby a of and claimsand memories the substitution a "collectivity" is formof participation individualized in stock-offering, whicha strictly of and regulated definedby the purchase stocksratherthanin termsof rights.For and identities uncommodified or historic communaVnational the certainformsof publicplanning, stateand aboveall the nationhave yet (no discourses matterhowproblematic), Solibeen key determining in dere seeksto bypassthesediscourses searchof a muchpurerformof
33. Sarkis, "Territorial Claims, p. 1 18.

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nation has that intensification finally onlyas muchto do withthe putative and techniques the production of by as is required the dictates marketing of a pastichenostalgiafor somethingthat was neverthere in the first unconsupposedly and, an place,namely, "authentic" moreimportantly, harksall the identitythatsomehow national of narrative Lebanese tested now and waybackto the Phoenicians thatcanbe summoned in commodtinge of local color to an otherwise ity form to add an unproblematic globalproject. found of fromthe fierycrucible the warin 1990,Lebanon Emerging withouta state.The statebeganto reconstitute itselfa countryvirtually electhe and however, following parliamentary afterthe war, itselfshortly resigned government tions in the summerof 1992 the last transitional underthe newly and by andwasreplaced a newparliament a newcabinet tycoonHariri. engineering the primeminister, multibillionaire appointed signalleda majorturning of The ascendency the Haririadministration had has Whilethe country always a freeof pointin the history Lebanon. was as an individual already of the economy, arrival Hariri who market (his economy net wealthis the equivalent playerin the Lebanese a major a GNP) represented draof proportion the country's of a substantial of marketforcesin nationalecoof maticintensification the presence by In nomic and politicalorganization. fact, in the terms established has reconstruction been one of astonpostwar the Harirism, processof and their for ishing self-enrichment the membersof the government has For associates. the new government not only widecircleof business take as its of openedthe floodgates privatization; members, individuals,

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At that liberalizations theymandate. of advantage the verysamemarket opposiincludedseveral leastuntilthe electionsof 1996,the parliament and of who tionmembers, werecritical the government itsreconstruction Duringthe 1996elections, planand wereableto blockcertainprojects. figureslost their seats and almost all of those oppositional however, by werereplaced a complavote to largely overwhelming rigging) (thanks in of madeup largely businessmen pursuitof wealth(incentparliament is parliament one of the richestin the world;it Today's cludingHariri). and millionaires threebillionaires. thirty-five includes that Lebanonfound itselfin afterthe war Becauseof the situation of of of deterioration publicorder, stateapparatuses, civic (thenear-total of the infrastructure), process privatization of organizations, the national in stagein Lebanonthan it is elsewhere is alreadyat a moreadvanced in (suchas Berlusconi Italy) the world,wherethe forcesof privatization by put havehadto facethe opposition up precisely thoseformsof public been had Lebanon already whichin organization and civicand national may In thissense,Lebanon be seen as a by erodedor destroyed the war. economics for kindof laboratory the mostextremeformof laissez-faire in Beirutitself,especially And,moreover, thatthe worldhaseverknown. for project,can be seen as a laboratory the view of the reconstruction as of and current futureelaborations globalcapitalism, wellas forits own "Lebanonito is possible speakof theimminent it thoughwhether future, to worldremains be seen (thiswouldof coursebe a differof zation" the by than ent "Lebanonization" the one popularized the mediain the early

696

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LayingClaim Beirut to

1980s,whichwasused to referto an uncontained spreadof communal violence). Indeed, if one can speakof a discourse called Harirism, would it centeron butnotbe limitedto Lebanon's multibillionaire primeminister, who in the name of economicstability broughta previously has undreamt-of intensification profitseekingto the Lebanese of economy, in whichthe apparatuses the statehavenot so muchbeen dismantled of or circumvented theyhavebeenput to useforprivate as interests, including thoseof Haririhimself. Witness examplethe recentpassageof a law for enablingthe greatercommercial exploitation the previously of highly regulated national coastline. Shortly afterwards (coincidentally) the came announcement a private of development project calledPortHariri, which would center on the construction, Beirut'sonly remainingpublic on beach,of a private hoteland yachtclubcomplex,adjoining, mightbe it added,a roadthatwasonlyrecently renamed Boulevard RafiqHariri.34 Onecouldjust as easilypointto the impending plansfor the reorganization and possibleprivatization the national of airline,whichare contingent on negotiations betweenleading politicians; to the plans to or reducethe numberof televisionstationsfrom sixty to five, whichwill basically splitup amongvarious be influential personalities. "Letthemeatcellular phones" mightsuggestitselfas Harirism's call to arms.For, the faceof direpoverty squalor a national in and at level,in the faceof an immensesocioeconomic crisisand an increasingly desperate standard livingfor mostof Lebanese of society(theminimum wageis the equivalent U.S.$ a month,whileprices rentandmanygoods of 150 for andservices oftencomparable thosein NewYork London), are to or Harirismoffersthe publica vastly improved infrastructurethe newcellular phonelines,the new roadways, new cabletelevision the (alsoownedby Hariri), new airportand newlyexpandedair services whetheror the not they need or can affordto use them. Evenas the countryprepares for a supposedeconomicboomthat is supposedto followthe regional "peace" agreement withIsrael,improvements basicsocialservices, in especiallythose provided the state (education, by healthcare,sanitation, housing), havefor the mostpartgone unaddressed (withthe notable exceptionof municipal garbage collection Beirut, in whichwasrecently improved,following privatization purchaseby none other than a its and Hariri company). Indeed,to the broadmassof the Lebanese population Harirism littleor nothingto offerexceptthe samehollowpromises has as thoseof the long-awaited trickle-down effectsof American Reaganomicsor English Thatcherism. fact,Harirism In employs sameneolibthe eralrhetoric Reaganism Thatcherism. of and Whileat one levelone couldeasilymisunderstand Harirism repreas
34. For more on this event, see the Beirut newspaper as-Safir, 20 Dec. 1994, p. 1.

CriticalInquiry

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sentingthe witheringawayof the state,or its reductionto simplythe true of maintenance order,and whileit is undoubtedly thatthe stateapextenteitherdismanand havebeencircumvented to a certain paratuses we tled or privatized, need to extend our analysisa bit more. For at of is anotherlevel,whatwe are witnessing not so muchthe dissolution In its the statebut ratherits reinforcement, strengthening. their book HardtandAntonioNegriarguethat"theneoMichael of Labor Dionysus, increaseof the Statein termsboth a liberalprojectinvolved substantial of The of size and powersof intervention. development the neoliberal formof rulein the senseof the progresa Statedid not leadtoward 'thin' Thus,they of or sivedissipation disappearance the Stateas a socialactor." and of rhetoric privatization the thinstate, argue,in spiteof the neoliberal and to movesin the oppositedirection reinforce expractice "neoliberal the subjectthat dominates pand the Stateas a strongand autonomous socialfield, in the realmof publicspendingas in that of judicialand policeactivity."35 in are arguments directed the firstinstance WhileHardtand Negri's degree thereis a startling of the firstworld, economies at the postmodern to theiranalysis includea statesuchas Lebanon. if of accuracy we stretch asof Forthe momentlet mejust registerthe accuracy theirtheoretical dramatideficitspendingincreased not sessment: only has government cally(withtotalpublicdebt runningat around60 percentof the 1995 of apparatuses the statehave also been grossGDP),but the repressive laws,previously For strengthened. example,old censorship enormously a ignored,are nowbeing enforced; new educationpolicybringsschool new medialaws regulation; under much tightergovernment curricula all eliminate but a handfulof radioandTV mentioned, will,as I already opposition silencing and stations bringthoseundertightcontrolthereby voicesin the publicsphere;the death penaltyhas been broughtback (and substantiated) for civil and politicalcrimes;there are widespread jails;and in of allegations the tortureand abuseof prisoners Lebanese of since 1993therehas been a banon streetprotests anykind.This last rein effectiveness the government's law has been used with particular and strikes demonpeatedclasheswithtradeunionsseekingto organize forces first strations: in July 1995,whenthe armyand internalsecurity the against rethe wereorderedto suppress tradeuniondemonstrations classand the paralin centincrease the taxburdenborneby the working the who minority constitute in lel decrease the taxburdenof the wealthy and and its circleof businessassociates; more recentlyin government on was curfew imposed Beirutandother 1996,whena military February Laplannedby the General a citiesto prevent strikeand demonstrations
of A 35. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Laborof Dionysus: Critique the State-Form (Minneapolis,1994), pp. 242, 245.

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Saree Makdssi Laying Claim Beirut to

bor Confederation call for an increasein the monthlyminimum to wage demands hadbeen rejected the government. ordering that by In the armyto imposethe curfew, PrimeMinister Harirideclared, will "we not allowthe government be toppledfromthe street." to So in factLebanon witnessed has bothan astonishing increase the in activities repressive apparatuses wellasan increase thestate's of state as in role in thoseformsof publicplanningthat as opposedto healthcare, education, low-income and housing arecalculated eitherto yieldimmediateprivate profitsor to improve infrastructural the conditions the for generation privateprofits. of This does not entailmerelythe confusion of publicand private interest, has oftenbeen suggested. is, rather, as It the colonization the formerby the latter.For,to be sure,where of state projects and private end projects begincan no longerbe determinednot becausethisis a strongstatethatis organizing command a economy but becausecapitalhas become state.Stateand capitalhavebecome the incorporated one and the sameforceor processdefinedby the same as discourse (Harirism).36 The transition not been smoothand seamless; has there has been widespread ongoingpopularresistance it, mostnotably workand to the ers' movements. Furthermore, is a processwith manyexteriorities; this thereare manygroupsthatit does not assimilate even regulate. or The economy has a burgeoning still informal sector(forexample,the tens of thousands Syrian of laborers working Lebanon, also unregulated in but agricultural industrial and production economic and activlties allother of kinds, including various formsof banking finance). couldsaythat and One the informal,unregulated economythat sprangup and persistedduringthe warhasnotyetbeenfullycolonized incorporated the and into intensified formof capitalism the Haririst that statehas cometo represent. Onceagainthis sectorof the economycarrieson with or without regardto the presence the state;peopleare left to theirowndevices, of to makedo as besttheycan,forbetterandfor worse. Onemightimagine Lebanons two livingsimultaneously perhaps and evencoextensively, rhizomically unevenly and intersecting overlapping or with one another. the one hand, thereis the modern On Lebanonthat was born duringthe war,in whichan informal, uneven,unorganized, unregulated combination modernand traditional of patterns ownerof
36. This is what Negri, followingMarx,identifiesas the total subsumptionof society and the state into capital.See Negri, "Twenty Theses on Marx:Interpretation the Class of SituationToday," trans. Hardt, and Kenneth Surin, "'The ContinuedRelevanceof Marxism' as a Question: Some Propositions," MarxismBeyondMarxism, ed. Makdisi,Cesare in Casarino,and Rebecca Karl (London, 1995), pp. 149-80 and 181-213. See also Ernest Mandel,Late Capitalism,trans.Joris De Bres (London, 1987);MartinCarnoyet al., TheNew GlobalEconomyin the Information Age: Ref ectionson Our Changing WorZd (UniversityPark,Pa., 1993);and PaulKnox andJohn Agnew,The Geography the World-Economy of (London, 1989).

CriticalInquiry

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ship and production persists; and, on the otherhand,thereis the postmodern intensification capital representedby the new Lebanon, of which,whileit maymakeuse of the stateand evenabsorb state,is to the a muchgreater extentaimedat the transnational of theglobal flows econ omy.Harirism seeks to set up Lebanonas a servicecenter,a regional nodeor stagingpointfor the circulation capital, basethroughwhich of a capitalcan be channeledinto the still highly undeveloped and unexploitedmarkets the post-peacesettlement of MiddleEast.In this sense, the statebecomesone organizing rubric,amongothers,for a discourse and process goesfarbeyondanyparticular that stateand thatfinally has littleinterest states, in borders, territorialities. thisextent,it is no coinTo cidenceat allthatmoreandmoretransnational companies-particularly in the informational financial and servicesector are eitheropeningor reopening theirofficesin Beirut: Saatchi Saatchi Citicorp, name & and to only two,just reopenedtheirBeirutoffices; majorinvestment and firms such as Flemings and ING/Barings of the world's (two leadingfirmsin openingso-called developing markets) locatedregionalofficesin Beirut (notAmman, the Gulf,andnotTelAviv).Nor is it a coincidence not that moreand moreinternational airlines flyingto Beirut. are Thus we might theorizethe presenceof a postmodernLebanon alongside modernLebanon, a withthe highlycharged fluidborders and betweenthemgoingas oftenas not unmarked undefined. borand The dersdo becomemanifest, however, afterepisodessuchas the indiscriminate Israelibombardment civilian of targetsin April1996,whenwe see how quickly certainareasor sectorsof the economyare repaired while othersare left to shiftfor themselves best theycan.The postmodern as Lebanon I havebeen identifying Harirism the globalinforthat with and mational economy Solidere indeedbe seenas marking phase and may the of therealsubsumption society stateintocapital.37 thisanalysis of and But cannotaccount the otherLebanon, for whichpersists alongside postthe modern-the Lebanon that Israeland Syriahavebeen trying(andfailing)to understand control and primarily bruteforce.Wecanthusalso by imagine Lebanons the levelof the regional two at statesystem. ArabThe Israeliconflict,the variousSyrianand Israeliprojects domination of in Lebanon,the strugglebetweenthe Israeliarmyof occupation the and resistance movement, eventhe much-vaunted MiddleEastpeaceprocess itself:theseall takeplaceat the levelof whatI am tryingto suggestis an outmoded, worn-out levelof international politics, residual state the politicsof aprevious ormode sovereignty, era of territoriality, nationalism, statism,
37. Hardtand Negri argue that "capital longer has an outside in the sense that . . . no all productiveprocessesarise within capital itself and thus the productionand the reproduction of the entire social world take place within capital"(Hardt and Negri, Labor of
Dionysus,p. 15).

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Makdisi Saree

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state, the namely, era of the modern(as opposedto postmodern) the as worldsystemor worldeconomy modern(asopposedto postmodern) embodied Harirism.38 in fromteleeverything, virtually represents willto privatize a Harirism to institutions convisionstationsto garbagecollectingto educational to and to struction projects stateproperty institutions realestateto the At the national airlineto, finallyand ultimately, centerof Beirut. the pethereare todaya numberof postersdeterritory, rimeterof Solidere's Beirut;the slogan pictinghappyscenesfroma future"reconstructed" Ask reads,BeirutIs Yours: aboutIt. But to mostpeople,excludedfrom that benefitsof a reconstruction is aimedat foreignand the so-called in Lebanese capitalratherthanat peopleand the socialformation genphrase,if not an actualinsult. onlyas a meaningless eral,thiscanappear resident population, it "Clearly, is the Lebanese Cormputsit succinctly: of process reconelementfromthe actual that or emigrant, is the missing its has the of For struction."39 in Solidere discourse Harirism reached pinexpression. its nacleand climax, ultimate was 1996,a familyof squatters killedwhen When,on 16 February the buildingthey had been livingin was broughtdown by a Solidere worst fears manypeople's still crew(withthe squatters inside), demolition and be therewouldliterally no spacein the revitalized wereconfirmed: and city gentrified cosmopolitan centerfor suchdestitute "undesirable" nothingless thana represents migrants. Beyhumargues,this project As of whereby futurecentraldistrict Beirut the systemof classsegregation, prewillbe cut off and isolatedfromthe restof the cityand the country the emphasize former booklets Whilethe Solidere ciselyin classterms.40 by of classdiversity the citycenterand promiseto restorethatdiversity into the overall residential developments mixed-income incorporating project,Beyhumsuggeststhat whatis far morelikelyto happenis the linesof the Soliof appearance a dualcityin Beirut,withthe boundary betweenthe citycenterand marking limit."Theduality the dereproject writes, Beyhum the restof the capital," imagesof peoplebecause irl willbe reinforced the mindsof ordinary in the to luxurywill contirlue bombard popularimaginatiorl surwill of The inauguration the firstbuildings inroundingquarters.
38*The other states, especiallySyria and Israel,continue to exist and to operate at this level, not realizingthat, like emperors with no clothes, they are operating within a if paradigmthat is outmodedand outmaneuvered, not exactlyalreadyextinct:the residual betweenstates,of statecontrol,of borders, paradigmof statepowerpolitics,of negotiations occupation,sabotage,domination,in short, of raw,naked, brutal state power,a paradigm founded upon a distinctionbetween state and civil society,or for that matterbetween the state and capital. p. 39. Corm,"LaReconstruction," 96. p. au 40. See Beyhum,"Beyrouth coeur des debats," 108.

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FIG.27.

Artist's impressionof pedestrianstreet in new city center.Source:Solidere.

creasethe signsof uncontrolled wealththatareinsulting the rest to of the population. logicof thisrealestatepromotion domiThe will nate one areaof the city,whiledeterioration probably will become morestrongly in otherareas.4' felt Indeed,whatis centralto the discussion the reconstruction central of of Beirutis a discourse limits,of boundaries, of frontiers. of and Withthis in mind we can returnto the overallSolidereplan. The talkof"properintegration" aside,the company's booklets,maps,plans, and discussions suggestthat this projectmayturn the centerof Beirut into a differentzone of space-time than thatof the rest of the city.The entireprojecthas been focusedand discussed the narrowest in possible terms so that the rest of Beirutand Lebanonfade awayand become vagueexternalities the plan,muchlike the blankspaceson the comto pany's maps.This does not suggestmerelya preoccupation the city with center(which afterall the focusof the project). is Rather, constitutes it an effortto coveroverthe restof the citywiththis,its postmodern ego; alter in fact, one of Solidere's logos is simplythe wordBeirut,in Arabic,as thoughthe company's fiefdomsomehow standsin for the restof the city, representing to the point of exclusion.Bearingin mind what Samir it
41. Ibid., pp. 108-9.

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SareeMakdisi

Laying Claimto Beirut

of structure the Aminand othershave suggestedaboutthe polarizing the to it worldeconomy, is important recognize extentto whichsuchpoit Or, are larizations playedout on a localandon a globalscale.42 rather, on of to see the development polarization a simultaimportant becomes neouslylocaland globalscaleand indeedto see thattheseforcesare alwaysat playwithinthe localand the globalin sucha waythattheyhelp or to definethe boundaries limitsbetweenthem(so thatthe globaVlocal to mustbe seen as misleading beginwith).43 opposition and In Beirut,as Beyhum,Sarkis, otherspointout, thereare very seriousfearsthata newcitycenterwillspringup in a fewyearsthatcan areasof the cityor eventhe restof the havelittleto do withsurrounding it Furthermore, shouldbe obviousto anyoneeven glancingat country. Square,whichonce servedto the proposedmap that the old Martyrs' by supplanted a is bringthe rest of the city together, to be effectively Chehab or running mere1,200meters so fromFouad a wide"boulevard" of to to Avenue the port.In fact,therewill,according critics the Solidere plan,be manymoredividinglines and notjust betweeneast and west areas Beirut,but betweenthe new centraldistrictand the surrounding of the city. the that materials haveconstituted heavy the Naturally, advertising of to reference the importance plan of artillery Solidere's makeextensive district the restof and between central the integration" "proper ensuring drive will Andyetthelayout placethecenterwithina five-minute thecity. and workers espeand fromthe airport hencecreateforitsinformational a businesspeople sensethattheyarecloserto the restof the ciallyvisiting Theseandotherconsideraworldthanto anypartof Beirutor Lebanon. not tionssuggestthatthis areawillbe developed as a site for the spatial of reconciliation Lebanonand of Beirutitselfbut ratheras a meeting Saudi,and East (American, Asian,European, businesses placeforforeign experts,bankfinancial managers, entrepreneurs, and Israeli) Lebanese can This, clearly, only amountto littlemorethan ers, and technocrats. for speculation the timebeing.On the otherhand,it hardlyseemslikely
World,trans.MichaelWolfers(Lona 42. See SamirAmin,Delinking:Towards Polycentric don, 1990). 43. Thus, while in the current configurationof the global economy,which Manuel a Castellshas argued needs to be seen as preeminently"informational," few cities have emerged as world cities, or as what Knox and Agnew identifyas "basingpoints for global capital,"and within even those cities themselvesplanning strategiesof segregationhave p. of become the norm (Knoxand Agnew,The Geography the World-Economy, 47). See Manuel EconomicRestructuring,and the UrbanCastells,The InformationalCity:InformationTechnology, IC. Regional Process(London, 1989); hereafter abbreviated Thus, RichardSennett argues that "thethrustof modern urbandevelopmenthas been preciselyto createcities consisting of isolatedzones, to destroyor abandonthe urbancenter as a publicmeeting ground, leavbusinessesbased on the serviceeconomy"(Riching only a core of nationalor international in ard Sennett, "Introduction," ReclaimingBeirut, p. 4).

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thatthe Solidereprojecthas nothingto do withthe currentdiscussions betweenIsrael of of the normalization economicand politicalrelations project seemslikelyas wellthatthismassive it world; hardly andtheArab characwhichis already economy, Lebanese is aimedonlyat the domestic and glut terizedby an enormous of apartment officespace. and of city" whichBeyhum othersspeakmust,in anycase, The "dual local in be understood a simultaneously and globalcontext.For(assuming betweeninsideandoutplan)the frontier thingsgo wellfor the Solidere betweena side the centraldistrictof Beirutwouldamountto a frontier economy,to which Manuel regionalnode in the globalinformational identibackwater and of refersas the "space flows," a peripheral Castells whichwouldthenbe incountry, fiablewiththe restof the cityand the economy of by characterized the laborprocesses the informal creasingly "benefromwhatever cut zonesin the worldeconomy, oS of peripheral (This,once again,is of flows."44 withthe "space fits"mightbe associated that is that assuming Solidere rightin believing Beirutcanresumesomedevelopment; economic thingakinto the rolethatit oncehadin regional predictions optimistic and this is far froma certainty, if the company's to threatens becomea masthe turnout to be unfounded, entireproject scheme Wharfurbandevelopment sivewhiteelephant,like the Canary arThus Docklands.)45 the dualityof sucha city,as Castells in LondoWs of gues, can "beseen as the urbanexpression the processof increasing withinthe growing sectors dynamic of differentiation laborin twoequally and formaleconomy, the downgraded the economy: information-based so economy," that,as he says,"thedualcityopposes, informal labor-based of terms,thecosmopolitanism thenewinformasociological in traditional of sectors restructured of to tionalproducers the localism the segmented that suggests, it is becom(IC, labor" pp. 225, 227).This means,Castells bedistinction clear that thereis an ever-proliferating ing increasingly
44. "The space of organizationsin the informationaleconomy is a spaceoffows," writesCastells: can decision-making only operateon the basisof customizedprovisionof Centralized servicesand retrievalof information.Backofficesare the materialbasisfor decisioncan organizations only work on the making,and large-scaleinformation-processing basis of instructionsreceivedfrom the center.The constellationof serviceslinked to each stage of the processof each industryalso depends on accessto the corresponding level of the communication network. Thus, the linkages of the intra-organizationalnetworkare the defining linkagesof the new spatiallogic. The space of units is flows among units of the organizationand among different organizational the the most significantspace for the functioning,the performance,and ultimately, [ very existenceof any given organization. C, p. 169] 45. Of course,as Castellsputs it elsewhere,the worldeconomycan bypassentirecountries;hence the threatof a fall from exploitationto irrelevancein the globalsystem,which by to Amin pushes us to think of modes of "delinking," which he does not mean a version and Surin, "'The Continued Relevanceof Marxism'as a of autarky.See Amin, Delinking, Question."

704

Makdisi Saree

Laying Claimto Beirut

sensesof and of tweenthe global"space flows" morelocallyunderstood pressures then, is that the homogenizing Whatall this suggests, place.46 generatethe of capital(whichstandat one pole of a globalantagonism) by primarily a technical characterized of of proliferation a "space flows" for kind of homogeneity; example,the most advancedtelecommuniin nodesof intensity the globalecovarious link cationssystems together nomicsystemin such a waythat these nodes are in fact closerto each At "hinterland." the otherpole otherthaneach is to its own immediate linkedto the "space not and localspaces economies directly standvarious this thoughit shouldbe clearthatthisdistinction, polarization, of flows," betweenthe globalsystemand its outan no longersignifies opposition itself. builtintothe system sideand others,but ratheran opposition betweenthe futurecenterof Beirut In a sense,then,the distinction sucha distinction, and the restof the citycouldbe foundedon precisely the between(butreallywithin) globaleconomy a namely, kindof frontier would project the If backwaters. fulfilled, Solidere andone of itslocalized as associations, indeedit has already historical redefinethe citycenter's it Moreprecisely, structures. done by flatteningmost of its remaining of in thoseassociations theformof a visualpastiche tradiwouldredefine into that a tionalformsandvalues, pastiche wouldbe integrated theprojand and ect at the levelof marketing aesthetics aboveall at the level of placessucha heavyemphasis. on buildingfaSades, whichthe company as The city centerwouldthen be presentedas pure appearance, pure capital of circuits transnational to hardwired theglobal ostensibly surface, or to "thespaceof flows." the between Bei"frontier" Butwhatthe fluidandmultidimensional is and rut of Solidere the restof the citywouldrepresent nothingother and of betweenthe space-time a globalpostmodernity thanthe frontier be cannotsimply however, The modernspace-time. latter, an antithetical termsas a localspaceto the extent oppositional in understood narrowly 46.
is This is becausethe ultimatelogic of restructuring basedon the avoidanceof historicallyestablishedmechanismsof social,economic,and politicalcontrolby the powerholding organizations.Since most of these mechanismsof control depend upon institutionsof society,escapingfrom the sociallogic embedded in territorially-based any particularlocale becomes the means of achievingfreedom in a space of flows who share the social logic, the values, and connected only to other power-holders, the criteria for performanceinstitutionalizedin the programsof the information systemsthat constitutethe architectureof the space of flows.The emergenceof the of space of flowsactuallyexpressesthe disarticulation place-basedsocietiesand cultures from the organizationsof power and production that continue to dominate societywithoutsubmittingto its control.In the end, even democraciesbecome powof erless confrontedwith the abilityof capitalto circulateglobally, informationto be of transferredsecretly, marketsto be penetratedor neglected,of planetarystrategies power to be decided without the knowledgeof nations, and of of political-military culturalmessagesto be marketed,packaged,recorded, and beamed in and out of people'sminds. [IC, p. 349]

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with,or ratheris embeddedwithin,the globalspaceof thatit overlaps Whatwe counterpart. and as the postmodern, its simultaneous necessary and are dealingwith here, in otherwords,is not so muchthe spurious a betweenglobaland local,but rathera cleavage, distinction misleading econof limitsandcontradictions the global one frontier, of the structural the marking tensionbetweenfirstworldand third omy,a contradiction also,perhapsaboveall, that a contradiction mustbe understood world: mustbe Onlynow the limitbetweenthese two "worlds" in classterms. of and even to definethe spatiality whatmightotherwise seen to inhabit time city, seem to be the "same" whichis at oneandthesame thirdworld full force of what I am tryingto suggesthere and firstworld.For the to Beirutno longerto be identical itself clearonlyif we consider becomes ratherto havetakenon in itsownspacethe disarticula(ifit everwas)but of the to economy, haveliteralized problematics uneven tionsof the global againstsomeoutsideworld,the city No development.47 longerdefined its willhavebecomeits ownfrontier, ownlimit.

47. As Neil Smith points out, "unevendevelopment[is] the geographicalexpression Nature, Capital,and the Proof of the contradictions capital"(Neil Smith, UnevenDevelopment: ductionof Space [Oxford, 1991], p. 252).

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