Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat

A New Approach of Urban History in Conflict Zones

The research focuses on cities co-exist under ethnic, religious and national conflicts, and conversely the agency lies in such cities to absorb, resist and potentially play a crucial role in transforming geopolitical conflicts to discursive conflicts, allowing us to reimagine justice beyond the exacerbated conditions of violence. The moment of critical transition from one state of everyday urban condition to a new one is what is being featured in cities in conflict. The research develops a new model to investigate the reciprocal relation of history and activism as embodied in materials. The model relies on generating new questions to narrate an alternative history of the architecture of cities-in-conflict. In a complementary section, I develop new methodological tool and disciplinary instruments to investigate, intervene and practice contested sites. The theme or model - or as I call it the Layer of Attention is the product of the relationship between the two disciplined approaches to cities-in-conflict (i.e., architecture as a reflection of top-down political decisions and architecture as a bottom-up practice) and their intersection with the multiple bodies of knowledge (i.e., design and theoretical inquiry).
The boundaries that were chosen to delineate a-priori as researchers will inevitably shape our ability to detect, judge and prioritize the different forces that affect people’s lives in cities of conflict. Using this tool, I investigate two case studies; the first concerns the agency uses of concrete in building ruined Gaza. Through archival materials and in-depth interviews, it is argued that the capacity of the ‘reform’ of concrete in the city resulted from the tension between ‘modernity - as a cultural project’ and of ‘modernization - articulated in terms of political, technological and economics’. The second is on the agency of ruins as material in (post)conflict cities, explored through the reciprocal relationship between thinking and writing history of ruins and practicing through ruins. Much focus will be on the reciprocal relation between the agency of history consumed by activists, and the agency lies in activism to challenge the western historical institution of producing knowledge.