In light of the polarisation of international political powers, and with the simultaneous instability this has caused within the context of Lebanese politics, the area of Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen in Tripoli, Lebanon, has witnessed a series of events that have altered its urban fabric, hence shaping its current socio-spatial dynamics. Poverty and tension reign over the neighbourhoods, trapping the residents in a vicious cycle of marginalisation. Identity and historical pasts seem to highly influence the perceptual filter through which the residents of the area view themselves and the world around them, especially through the symbolic projections visible in the urban landscape. The objective of this research is to deconstruct the elements that justify the existing fractured socio-spatial dynamics, and that are intensifying the tensions on the ground. The aim is to single out the variables that come into play when analysing the interaction between the residents and the space they inhabit. The research therefore questions how identity politics in the area is impacting collective memory and consequently socio-spatial dynamics in Bab el tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. My hypothesis claims that Identity politics (independent variable) is influencing collective memory (dependent variable) through the use of symbolism (intermediate variable), hence affecting socio-spatial dynamics (outcome). A list of indicators and values was respectively developed for each variable in order to filter and analyse the collected data gathered during fieldwork. This research was based solely on the collection and analysis of primary and secondary qualitative data for the sake on analysing this case-study. The fieldwork period consisted of a desk review, mapping and personal observations of the case-study area, and semi-structured interviews with residents, NGO representatives, and Urban extract. The desk research aimed at collecting secondary data from newspaper articles in order to frame the chronological outline of my findings. Personal observations and semi-structured interviews were used to analyse the current socio-spatial dynamics to test the validity of my hypothesis. Following the data analysis and after evaluating the significance of the variables on the ground, the conclusions that were drawn signalled that identity politics has historically actively participated in shaping collectively memory using symbolism as a main tool. Nonetheless, the direction of my hypothesis was interrupted following the implementation of the security plan in 2014, because residents of both neighbourhoods have broken ties with the influencers of identity politics. Following years of formation, collective memory is now acting as a significant independent variable that is shaping the individual identities of the residents. The concluding remarks have identified the underlying factors that have enabled my hypothesis to be expressed in space. In fact, poverty, the foreign-backed Lebanese sectarian system, and the regional political history of Lebanon, have provided a nurturing ground for identity conflict in Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

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Jachnow, A. (Alexander)
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Rajab, L. (Line). (2017, September). Identity Politics in Contested Urban Spaces. Retrieved from