“The Struggles over Identity, Morality, and Public Space in Middle Eastern Cities”

In Memory of Prof. Christoph Schumann.

About the project:

Rather than a linear transition to democracy, the Arab uprisings have triggered a multitude of struggles over the identity of society and the ‘good’ order of state.

We assume that these struggles occur on a national and local level simultaneously. By investigating selected quarters of four Arab cities (Beirut, Amman, Sana’a, and Tunis) plus Istanbul (with independent funding), our research will deliberately start on the local level. In doing so, it is our goal to shed light on two intertwined processes:

  1. the spatial politics of constructing and bridging identities and
  2. the struggle over the definition and enforcement of moral norms in public spaces – be it by demonstrative religious appearance, milieu pressure (Turk.: mahalle baskısı), the threat of violence by radical groups, or by coercive governmental policies.

Thereby we aim at analyzing the driving forces behind the current changes:

  • Who are the crucial actors?
  • What role plays the interaction of state institutions and private/civil society actors?
  • What are the declared goals and what are the tacit normative assumptions?
  • What kind of political means and arguments are being used to achieve them?
  • Can we describe these developments as “Islamization of the City”?
  • In how far are these developments reflected on the national level by changing concepts of the state as guardian of the collective identity and morality?


This project is funded by:

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