Tag Archives: Cities

Responding to Uprising: Urban Security Between Resilience and Resistance: workshop program

What follows is the program of the day of discussions I am hosting at Birmingham on the theme of how to manage cities in times of uprising. There will be a wide interdisciplinary range of speaker, including Geography, Engineering, Law and Politics. 

The workshop is sponsored by Birmingham’s Institute for Advanced Studies and sees the participation of internal speakers from both my academic homes: the Institute for Conflict Cooperation and Security and the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Details of the event can be found here


For registration: MyringS@adf.bham.ac.uk

For any other enquiries: s.fregonese@bham.ac.uk


The day will unfold as follows:


Responding to Uprising: Urban Security between Resilience and Resistance 

Thursday 26 September 2013

 Edgbaston Room, Lucas House, University of Birmingham   


9:00 – 9:30 Registration and coffee

9:30 – 9.45 Welcome and introduction to workshop (Sara Fregonese)

09:45 – 10:45 Paper session 1: Spaces              Chair: Adam Ramadan

Abel Albet ’We are fed up’. Building (and repressing) a reasonable rebellion in Spanish streets

Sara Fregonese Outsourcing, hybridizing, reshaping sovereignty. Questions on researching political violence during uprising

Sappho Xenakis Which protestors and what grievances? Disaggregating urban security challenges in contemporary Greece

10:45 – 11:00 Session 1 Q&A

11.00 – 11.15 Coffee break  

11:15 – 12:15 Paper session 2: Subjects              Chair: Andrea Teti

Nelly Ali Street Children in Egypt and the Arab Spring: The Prevalence of Physical Violence Used by Old and New Regimes towards Children during times of Social Movements

Gennaro Gervasio Power and Resistance, and the Egyptian Revolution: a view from the margins.

Michelle Pace The Development of the ‘Public Sphere’ in the MENA since the “Arab uprisings”: the case of Egypt

12:15 – 12.30 Session 2 Q&A

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 14:45 Paper session 3: Practices              Chair: Jon Coaffee

Antonia Layard Protest: The English Legal Landscape

Anna Feigenbaum and John Horne Mediating Tear Gas from Brazil to Bahrain

Nikolai Bobylev Informal public protests in Russia: the Power political engineering and social responses

Victoria Trimble A History of Censorship, Narrative and Propaganda in Counter-Terrorism; Implications for Prevent

14:45 – 15:05 Session 3 Q&A

15:05 – 16:00 Breakout groups: agendas for research and practice

Group 1. Changing powers, changing spaces: discourses and practices of (counter) protest between State and emerging actors

Group 2. From counterterrorism to counterprotest? Agendas, contexts, meanings, implementations.

16:00 – 16:15 Coffee break

16:15 – 16:45   De-briefing from break-our groups and possible workshop outcomes

16:45 – 17:00   Workshop close

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“Urban land and conflict in the global South” workshop

Back in March I participated in the “Urban land and conflict in the global South” workshop organized by Melanie Lombard of the Global Urban Research Centre at the University of Manchester.  It was a good occasion to reflect on urban conflict in the frame of urban informality and I am now preparing an article on the new informal boundaries in Beirut  post-2008 clashes.

Melanie wrote a brief thematic summary outlining avenues for future research. You can read it here:


Sara Fregonese

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AAG 2013 and Uprising Geographies

Over the past week, we both attended the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in Los Angeles, where we hosted a double session on uprising geographies (see previous post).

The main conference venue was the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, famously discussed by Fredric Jameson as a ‘postmodern hyperspace’. Although its labyrinthine and fragmented space was conducive more to disorientation than to encounter, we did manage to catch up with several geography friends and colleagues.

Between us, we attended many excellent sessions (and missed many more) particularly on the themes of urban space and protest, migration and borders. These included the session on Animating Geopolitics, two sessions on Global Urbanization and Local Politics in an Age of Austerity (IV and V), two sessions on Political Activism (I and II), the second session on The Urban at a Time of Crisis (it was good to hear papers from Sara’s special issue on Mediterranean Geographies of Protest being mentioned and cited), a triple session on the Geopolitics of Mobility and Immobility, one each of the session series on (Re)imagining Borders in an Era of Migration and Deportation (III), Violence and Space (IV), Geographies of Peace (II), and From Palestine to Mexico (II), and finally two authors-meet-critics sessions for Alex Jeffrey’s new book on Bosnia, The Improvised State, and John Agnew and Luca Muscara’s second edition of Making Political Geography.

Our double session (I and II) on Thursday afternoon almost filled the room, with an audience of about 45 at its peak.

The opening speaker was Jared van Ramshorst, a masters student at San Diego State University. He presented on the emotional and affective workings of urban social movements in a variety of contexts, focusing particularly on student protests in California.

Sam Halvorsen then spoke on Occupy London, and the movement’s territorial practices and subversions of space. He discussed the capture and occupation of Finsbury Square as an example of ‘taking space’.

Anna Feigenbaum and Fabian Frenzel continued with the example of Occupy London, and offered some brilliant insights into the methodological challenges on conducting research on affect in protest camps. We’d really like some of their protest camp cards!

The fourth speaker was Nelly Ali, who spoke movingly on her work with street children in Cairo during and since the 2011 uprising. It was fascinating to hear how the children’s knowledge of life on the streets and the inner workings of the city were invaluable to protesters with whom they allied. Sadly, violence against street children – from police, from fast-tracked court proceedings and in prison – has not improved post-revolution. We are grateful to Nelly for agreeing to present at short notice, after Irene Bono was unable to attend the conference.

The second session was opened by Adam, who discussed a historical example, in the Palestinian ‘Revolution’ in Lebanon between 1970 and 1982.

Jonathan Rokem followed, outlining two lacunae in conventional urban theory. He argued that the ‘Arab Spring’ should be seen as an invitation for comparative urban studies, challenging the classic literature on the ‘Islamic city’ and the conventional focus of urban studies on cities like New York, LA and London.

Elisa Pascucci discussed the refugee protest camp in 2005 outside UNHCR offices in Mustapha Mahmoud Square, Cairo, and the brutal assault on it by Egyptian police. The relocation of UNHCR outside the city centre better allowed the state to contain protests.

The final presentation was by Sara, who compared state responses to uprisings and protests in Cairo and Athens. Both cases illustrated hybrid sovereignty practices, with the close and ambiguous relationships between police and thugs (baltagiya in Egypt, Koukouloforoi in Greece) blurring the line between state and non-state, legitimate and illegitimate violence and coercion.

Both sessions were closed by Prof John Agnew, who offered ‘instant wisdom’ as discussant. In particular, he drew parallels between the cases discussed and those of the late 1960s in Italy, France and elsewhere. He noted differences in the shift from a focus on ‘interest’ politics to the recent focus on affect, emotion and identity. In conclusion, he argued that coercion is the ultimate basis of political order, and uprisings – whether student protesters, Occupy activists, refugees or street children – must always challenge this coercion.

Both sessions were followed by discussion, and particularly the first session sparked a really useful debate about nature of uprising and the cases presented. A very thorough twitter feed of the second session is available here (scroll down to 11 April 2013).

All in all it was a really productive conference, and as we try to shrug off the jet lag, we have lots to think about!

Sara Fregonese
Adam Ramadan

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Forthcoming book: The radicals’ city

After submission in Autumn 2012 (see post on 11/10/2012), the proofs are complete and the new book co-authored with Ralf Brand on radicalisation, social cohesion and the urban built environment is now in print and forthcoming in July (28 July for Amazon.co.uk).

Ashgate has a page with the book description and contents:  http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409451600 and endorsements by Caroline Moser and Stuart Croft.

The regular price of the hardback is £ 55, but it’s £49 through the publisher’s website. It is also available in e-book and pdf. The price is quite good for both academics and practitioners, especially considering that the book contains 115 (yes, 115) colour images.

The activities of the ESRC-funded research project that inspired the book can be viewed at www.urbanpolarisation.org.


Sara Fregonese

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Contested Mediterranean Spaces. Book review.

After presenting my thoughts at its launch event at SOAS one year ago, I reviewed this very interesting collection of essays for Environment and Planning D. The volume is inspired Charles Tilly’s work on contentious politics in the Mediterranean, whose cities are at the centre of today’s security concerns amidst uprising, regime transition, protests, and conflict. This book sets the tone for the discussions that geopolitics scholars should have – and we should have more – on this region, its urban communities and environments.

You can read the review here:


Kousis M, Selwyn T and Clark D (2011) Contested Mediterranean spaces ethnographic essays in honour of Charles Tilly. Oxford and New York, Berghahn Books

Sara Fregonese

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AAG 2013: Uprising Geographies double session

After the call for papers that we circulated 3 weeks ago, we were able to submit a double session on Geographies of Uprising for the next Association of American Geographers meeting in Los Angeles in Spring.

Here’s the line-up:

Uprising Geographies: Urban Resistance and Security – Session I

Jared Van Ramshorst (San Diego State University)
Networks of Emotion: Understanding Spaces of Emerging Social Movements

Sam Halvorsen (University College London)
Subverting Space: Territorial Practices and the Occupy Movement

Anna Feigenbaum (Bournemouth University)
Speaking of Occupy: Place, politics and communication in protest camps

Irene Molina (Uppsala University)
Militarization and Uprisings in Post-welfare Swedish Suburbs

Uprising Geographies: Urban Resistance and Security – Session II

Adam Ramadan (University of Birmingham)
Uprising and the Camp: the Palestinian Revolution in Lebanon

Jonathan Rokem (Ben Gurion University of the Negev), Marco Allegra (University of Lisbon) & Irene Bono (Università degli Studi di Torino)
Rethinking Cities through Protest: The Arab Spring and the Mobilization of Urban Dissent

Elisa Pascucci (University of Sussex)
Aid, Security and Neoliberal Urbanism in Cairo: spatial practices of containment after the Mustapha Mahmoud protest, 2005

Sara Fregonese (Royal Holloway University of London)
Mediterranean Uprisings: Towards a Hybrid Geography of Sovereignty

John Agnew (University of California, Los Angeles)

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The Lion in the Room. Or, how to cope during tough times in Beirut.

Beirut is certainly one of the cities where geopolitical processes are most entwined in its everyday life.

A video has just been released, showing the Chase Restaurant in Sassine Square in Beirut, at the moment of the explosion of the car bomb which on Friday 19 October killed General Wissam al Hassan, Head of the intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

Video of the moment of the explosion at Sassine Square.

Last Friday, the delicate relationship between Lebanon and neighboring Syria, the attempts to expand the Syrian conflict into Lebanon, and the renewed polarisation of the Lebanese political and sectarian scene since the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005, all materialised in this powerful blast. It came from a car bomb parked in a narrow street between a bank and some residential buildings, adjacent to the lively Sassine Square, the heart of traditional Christian Beirut, but now becoming more and more populated with Shi’a middle class residents.

After the bomb, came the funeral, and after the funeral, came the protest for the government to resign, and for the first time since the Lebanese civil war, the Ottoman-epoch Government building, the Serail, came under violent attack by demonstrators.

There are clear leads connecting this bomb with Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad (Assad in Arabic means ‘Lion’). Last Summer, General Al-Hasan ordered the arrest of former minister of information Michel Samaha. Wiretapping and intelligence agents had caught Samaha plotting with the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau Ali al-Mamlouk  to bring explosives into Lebanon and blow up Sunni political exponents.

Yesterday the French foreign minister declared that a Syrian involvement is ‘probable’.

While the geopolitical balance of the region is once more in question after Friday, the everyday geopolitics of Beirut and other polarised cities like Tripoli in the north of the country develop with street protests, burning barricades, shooting, and the resurgence of the lines of contention that remain latent in those areas where the population is politically polarized and more susceptible to being radicalised.

Part of living in Beirut consists of such tough times, when moving around and feeling safe in the city is a continuous negotiation and adaptation of one’s routines and habits.

Among the many coping mechanisms is a user-generated mobile application called Ma2too3a (in arabic: ‘cut’). Created by the CEO of Larochesoft, Mohammad Taha, Ma2too3a works by posting notifications about roads that are cut (ma2too3a) not only because of traffic jams, but above all because of checkpoints, demonstrations, burning tires, shooting and so on. In August 2012, Taha was in talks with the Interior Ministry and fire department in Beirut to have it officially launched and plans were for it to reach the Android market. It is nicely designed and when an event terminates, a red rose appears indicating that the road is free.

The app is the twenty-first century version of the 1970s radio announcers who in Beirut updated the population about the situation in the streets and the position of snipers.

Living through (often very negative) change is part of the everyday life of a city like Beirut. Ma2too3a is the example of dual-use technologies that truly can help cities and communities be resilient in times of conflict.

In the face of the lion in the room.

Sara Fregonese

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New book

Less than a month ago I had the pleasure to complete yet another collaboration with Ralf Brand from the University of Manchester. We submitted the manuscript for our joint-authored volume The radicals’ city: urban environment, polarisation, cohesion. It will be published by Ashgate in 2013. It also contains an epilogue written by Jon Coaffee from the University of Birmingham.

The book derives from the ESRC project “The built environment: mirror and mediator of radicalisation?” which ran at the Manchester Architecture Research Centre from 2007 to 2010.

The argument at the basis of the book is that social processes like stereotyping, polarisation, and even radicalisation or open conflict do not happen in a spatial void. Instead, they are part of complex socio-technical processes. In our cities, the built environment functions as symbolic, affective, everyday agent that influences social tension or cohesion.

Over the course of several months, we explored these dynamics with interviews and participatory photography projects in four cities: Amsterdam, Beirut, Belfast, and Berlin. There was also a mobile exhibition to present the project to the public.

The ultimate objective of this visually and empirically rich book is to assist policy makers, planners, architects, urban designers and ordinary citizens in creating urban spaces that are conducive to the friendly encounter of different social groups, thus helping to tackle the ground conditions of societal polarisation and gear it instead towards cohesion.

You can read more about the book in this leaflet, which you will also find at Ashgate’s bookstands at conferences:

Sara Fregonese

See also: Fregonese, S. and Brand, R. (2009) “Polarisation as socio-technical phenomenon. A bibliographical review”, Journal of Urban Technology 16(2-3): 9-34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10630730903278546

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CFP: Uprising Geographies: urban resistance and security

Call for papers: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, 9-13 April 2013

Session: Uprising Geographies: urban resistance and security

Sara Fregonese (Royal Holloway University of London)
Adam Ramadan (University of Birmingham)

If terror was central to popular and official understandings of security in the past decade, might uprising be key to urban, national, and global geographies of security in the current one?

Since the end of 2010, the uprisings of the ‘Arab Spring’, the anti-austerity protests across Europe, occupations and encampments in global cities, and the Summer 2011 riots in London, suggest a new political moment of mass disaffection and disobedience. Beyond the specificities of individual events, uprisings worldwide have demonstrated the presence of shared concerns about social justice, human rights, and democracy for transnational geographies of solidarity and organised resistance.

In response, discourses and practices of state and urban security are shifting from the spectre of major terrorist attacks to managing popular disobedience and policing its spaces. As uprisings create new tactics and practices of territoriality, states reassert their sovereignty through new arrangements of policing and securitisation. From Cairo and Homs to Athens, Madrid, and New York, we have seen strong and often violent collisions between resistance movements and state security.

Cities constitute physical and symbolic terrains for socio-political change. If 2011 has seen the inception and revival of geographies of mass protest and resistance in cities all around the Mediterranean, 2012 sees the continuity and spreading of these practices (and responses) to urban spaces worldwide. How are these collisions reshaping the political geographies of communities experiencing uprising? What are the likely scenarios, the spaces, practices, and performances emerging from the uprisings?

We invite contributions from a variety of theoretical approaches and real world case studies, on or around the following themes:

–  the uprising and post-uprising city

–  State responses, resilience, resistance

–  protest spaces and camps

–  transnational geographies of uprisings

–  experimental urban politics

–  tactics, relationships, and discourses of uprising

–  security discourses during and after uprising

–  everyday practices of security in the wake of uprising

–  uprising and post-uprising geopolitical imaginations

–  sovereignty and territory in the age of uprising

Please send abstracts (250 words max) to sara.fregonese@rhul.ac.uk by Monday 22 October 2012.

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