Working Paper
Violent Urbanization and Homogenization of Space and Place

Reconstructing the Story of Sectarian Violence in Beirut

This paper aims at understanding the dynamics of sectarian violence in the city of Beirut, by looking at the early phase of violence in the Lebanese civil war (1975–90), and the process of dividing Beirut into various sectarian enclaves controlled by the warring militias. The paper aims to show the way in which political actors used sectarian violence as a mechanism of social, political, and territorial control. As a point of departure, the paper views the city not only as a backdrop for conflict and violence, but also as an actual target. The objectives of the paper are threefold. First, it shows how sectarian violence was not random but was, rather, a product of a lengthy process that involved calculation and some levels of planning. It includes defining one’s neighbour as an enemy and as a threat. Second, it shows the measures and practices that were employed by militias to consolidate the full control of territory that entailed the transformation of space and place into homogenous entities. Third, it looks at the centrality of the concepts of homogenization of space (and place) and territoriality in the course of waging sectarian violence.