Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia

Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia

Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia

Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia


With extensive field work, detailed partition maps, and previously unpublished photographs, this book illuminates errors and successes for urban managers wishing to avoid the enormous costs of physical segregation and its aftermath.


Lebbeus Woods

The five cities under study in this book are vitally important to an understanding of the contemporary world. Each is different, in that each emerges from a unique historical background, belonging to a quite particular and localized set of cultural conditions. Yet, each shares with the others a common set of existential factors, belonging to what we might call an emerging global condition. Prominent among these is sectarianism—a confrontation of differing, though not necessarily opposed, religious beliefs, leading to widespread violence—and a stopgap solution focused on the physical separation of conflicting parties and communities. The other feature shared by the cities under study is that the stopgap solution of separation, intended as an emergency measure to prevent bloodshed and disorder, turns into more or less persistent, if not permanent, division. No one intends to create divided cities as a long-term solution to sectarian violence; rather, such cities emerge from the seeming intractability of the conflicts and their causes.

The story of the present is increasingly being written in terms of religious conflicts. The secularism of the West is exposed through globalization to the sectarian quarrels that bedevil many regions of the world. Western institutions of government and commerce, which operate according to democratic processes or market-savvy principles, are no match in singleminded determination for those elsewhere driven by religious fervor. On the defensive, they have hardened their own positions accordingly. At the same time, Western politicians are not above exploiting religious differences to disguise neocolonial ambitions.

Going against two centuries of growing liberalism in the West, there are many new walls—physical, legal, psychological—being hastily thrown up in the interests of “security” to separate “us” from “them.” This goes beyond realities of gated communities for the rich, and restrictive, ethnically biased immigration laws, extending to attempts to seal entire national . . .

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