Recently two reviews of my book with Ralf Brand “The Radicals’ City: Urban Environment, Polarisation, Cohesion” were published. The first, brief one appeared in Urban Design, Issue 129, Winter 2014. The other, more thorough, was published on the Arab Studies Institute e-zine Jadaliyya.
The Jadaliyya review, authored by Jihad Farah, is very engaging and thought-provoking as it tries to pinpoint the role of urban design within the situation in those Middle Eastern cities that are experiencing socio-political transition as well as division, waves of radicalisation and outright violence.
Jihad Farah’s only critique to the book is that the case studies are descriptive and lacking some depth, including treating the groups studied as organic entities rather than highlighting their nuances. This critique is not suprising. Although based on 100+ interviews as well as data elicited through participatory photography, the original project at the basis of the book was – for its nature and duration – broad and to a certain extent exploratory, rather than ethnographically specific and in-depth. Through 4 intense but brief fieldwork sessions of 2 weeks in each city, our goal was to identify urban dynamics connected to dynamics of polarisation and radicalization that are transferable to different contexts and – most importantly – relevant to different audiences.
Jihad Farah’s piece is a very good read for those who are trying to make sense of the ongoing Middle Eastern situation not only from a political perspective, but also – very importantly – from a spatial one.