In August 2012, UCHRI convened its Eighth Seminar in Critical Theory (SECT VIII) in Beirut, Lebanon. Focused on “Spaces of Resistance,” SECT VIII explored the spaces and speeds of resistance to dominant structures of power The seminar was co-convened by Howayda al-Harithy and Mona Fawaz of the Department of Architecture and Design at American University, Beirut, along with Saree Makdisi in English at UCLA and David Theo Goldberg, UCHRI’s Director.

Beirut offered a compelling site from which to think critically about subjugation and resistance, given its long history of contested urban space as well as its central location both geographically and politically in the Middle East. A city at once resonant with history and more or less repeatedly built anew; thickly cosmopolitan and stricken by sectarian religious, political, and ethnoracial strife; a crossroads of human and capital mobility and yet weighed down by the degrading conditions of refugee camps close to the city center; repeatedly devastated by civil war and Israeli invasion, the city embodies the contradictions of the region: resilience in the face of violence, cosmopolitanism in the face of intense sectarianism; religious, ethnic, class, and cultural heterogeneity in the face of Beirut’s “precipice politics”; conviviality in the face of critical conditions; work-arounds in the face of lacking or failing infrastructure.

Beirut, then, and the varied group both from the region and globally that we gathered in Beirut offered a generative site and set of interlocutors from which and with whom to think in deep ways about subjugation and resistance, multiple realities and dominant historical narratives, the fabric of the city and its fabricating representation, the performance of the political and the construction of the communal.

What follows is a sampling of reflective pieces from some of the interlocutors in the room of SECT VIII, generative fragments prompted by the intensely rich engagements we had with each other, with the city and its inhabitants, with the region more generally and in some cases with the region’s refugees. None of us present came away untouched by the intensity and generativity of the engagement. These small interventions are one way of sharing this more generally.

Published Articles from SECT VIII