Recurrent Warscape in Beirut public spaces: forty years later (1975-2015)


  • Nadine Hindi Notre Dame University



In the context of a tormented Middle East geopolitics and the ongoing Arabo-Israeli conflict, a civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975 and went uninterrupted for fifteen long years. As early as the first two-years-round of civil war in 1975-77, violent armed conflict manifested itself in an urban nature and contextualized in the capital Beirut. Back then, the civil war targeted systematically the public spaces and achieved purposefully the dual objective of mutating social practice and mutilating their urban form into a geography of fear. Intriguingly, during the unreconciled civil war aftermath, the display of instability and conflict kept on marking sporadically the same public spaces at different incidents. Three decades following the eruption of urban violence in 1975, intermittent events of social and political nature took place between 2005 and 2015, triggered by the assassination of the prime minister. This paper will tackle the two case studies of public spaces which are the pivots of the recurrent warscape: Place des Martyrs and the seaside hotels’ area, both symbols of social and geographic contestations at simultaneous times of peace and war. Based on an interdisciplinary literature, the socio political manifestations will be highlighted by unfolding them across time and space. Signs of discontentment and instability are manifested under different facets and patterns varying from passive intangible representations to active outbursts. The perpetuation of events hitherto occurring in the same urban spaces will be studied from the perspective of the social and political realities. In the absence of a mono-causal factor for warscape recurrence, mapping conflict in the urban space is a suggested tool to approach the perpetuation issue from a context-specific perspective. It is as well an opportunity to raise the question on the relation between the socio-political claims and their reverberation in the same urban spaces.


Call, Charles T. Why Peace Fails: The Causes and Prevention of Civil War Recurrence. Georgetown University Press, 2012.

Crinson, Mark (ed.). Urban Memory : history and amnesia in the modern city. Routledge, 2005.

Delpal, Christine, « La Corniche de Beyrouth, nouvel espace public », Les Annales de la recherche urbaine n° 91, (2001): 74-82, 0180-930-XII-01/91/.

Elsheshtawy, Yasser (eds). The evolving Arab city: Tradition, Modernity and Urban Development, London: Routledge, 2008.

Fregonese, Sara, “The urbicide of Beirut ? Geopolitics and the built environment in the Lebanese civil war (1975-76)”, Political Geography 28 (2009) Elsvier: 309-318.

Hourani, Najib B., “People or Profit? Two Post-Conflict Reconstructions in Beirut”. Human Organization; Summer (2015) Vol. 74, Nb. 1; ProQuest Central: 174-184.

Humphreys, David, “The Reconstruction of the Beirut Central District: An urban geography of war and peace”. Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies 6(4) (2015): 1–14.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. The logic of civil war. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Khalaf, Samir. Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Khalaf, Samir. Heart of Beirut: Reclaiming the Bourj. London: Saqi Books, 2006.

Khalaf, Samir. Lebanon adrift, from battleground to playground. London: Saqi Books, 2012.

Kim, Nam, “Cultural Landscapes of War and Political Regeneration”. Asian Perspectives, Vol. 52, No. 2, by the University of Hawai‘i Press (2014): 244-267.

Leontidou, Lila, Urban social movements: from the ‘right to the city’ to transnational spatialities and flaneur activists, City, 10:3 (2006): 259-268, DOI: 10.1080/13604810600980507.

Nasr and Verdeil, “The Reconstructions of Beirut “in The City in the Islamic World, Salma K. Jayyusi and al., Brill, Boston: Leiden, 2008.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. A different kind of war story. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press, 1997.

Nordstrom, Carolyn. Shadows of war: violence, power, and international profiteering in the twenty-first century, London, England: University of California Press, Ltd. 2004.

O’Ballance, Edgar. Civil war in Lebanon: 1975-92. London: Macmillian Press, 1998.

Picard, Elizabeth. Lebanon a shattered country: myths and realities of the Wars in Lebanon. New York: Holmes and Meir, 2002.

Preston, Matthew. Ending civil war: Rhodesia and Lebanon in perspective. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2004.

Rabbat, Nasser, “The Arab Revolution Takes Back the Public Space.” Critical Inquiry 39, no. 1, by The University of Chicago (September 2012): 198-208.

Ruiz Herrero, Juan, “Los ma`abir o puntos de cruce en el Beirut de la guerra civil”, Scripta Nova. Revista Electrónica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales. [online]. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona, vol. XVI, nº 391 (2012). <>, accessed: 01.05.2015.

Verdeil, Éric. Beyrouth et ses urbanistes : une ville en plan (1946-1975). Beyrouth, Presses de l’Ifpo, 2010., accessed: 12.03.16, accessed: 12.03.16




How to Cite

Hindi, N. (2016). Recurrent Warscape in Beirut public spaces: forty years later (1975-2015). International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(4).