Communication non publiée
Neoliberalization and The Spaces of Electricity in Lebanon and Jordan
Nom de la conférence
Twelfth Mediterranean Research Meeting
Date(s) de la conférence
2011-04-06 / 2011-04-09
Lieu de la conférence
Monte Catini, ITALIE
Mots clés
neoliberalization, city planning, energy efficiency, sustainable development, Jordan, Lebanon, urban policy, urban politics
The claim to put neoliberalised Middle Eastern cities on the map of urban studies must come with a sound reflection on which of those cities will appear. Recent accounts have more or less shed lights on the transformations of such globalised places as the new megaprojects in the Arab capital cities (Elsheshtawy 2004, 2008: Barthel 2010). These places are on the routes of the world capitalism and reflect in their newly (re-)shaped urban fabric its manifestations. When Robinson (2006) argues about 'off the map' cities, she doesn't only understand the new jewels of world capitalism like Casablanca or Dubai. She also claims to investigate everyday spaces and urban practices that do not usually deserve academic interest. To comply with such a commitment, we propose in that paper to concentrate on the electrical infrastructure system in cities, which is widely overlooked by the academia. We also want to focus on second rank cities or suburban neighborhoods that usually remain outside the view. The relationship between networked infrastructure and space in the framework of neoliberal reform has been a major avenue for urban research, with two major references. The major reference here is the Splinterring urbanism thesis which was proposed by Marvin and Graham (2001). Their idea that the neoliberal reforms, and particularly the unbundling of utilities, lead to a more differentiated or even splintered society has been largely discussed and in some ways nuanced. Coutard (2008) argues that in the global south, the picture is more complex than the single trend towards splintered cities. One of the more evident results is an emerging strong territorial complexity in terms of technical modes of supply as well as of governance of infrastructure. Through case studies taken in Lebanon (Beirut's suburbs and Jbeil) and in Jordan (Maan, Irbid), we intend to analyze the complex paths towards neoliberal reforms. We first want to analyse that process as a class struggle, thus highlighting a structural approach to change. But we also shed light on the spatial transcription of the reforms and question if what spaces are emerging. We insist on the idea of spaces of exceptions, fitting well with the processes unraveled by Ong (2006). The emergence of the generators sector inLebanon is a good example of such a process, since it is a temporary, illegal but tolerated way of providing electricity. In some place it might appear like a premium network space as labeled by Marvin and Graham but the comparison is not entirely convincing. In Maan, the emergence of a solar hub in a special development area also looks like the spaces of exception depicted by Ong. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to describe all the neoliberal spaces of electricity as spaces of exception and the everyday life of neoliberal space, as analysed in Irbid, is more common and representative of new power relationships between private and local public actors. Through these various examples, our ambition is twofold. First, we want to acknowledge that the neoliberal transformations go beyond the new global icons of capitalism and also targets everyday places and services. These changes occur in a complex temporality and that process, by itself, are better analysed in terms of gradual moves which are spatially differentiated rather than simple success or failures of the neoliberalisation. It was claimed that the neoliberalisation of spaces is a process which is place specific (Peck and Tickell 2002), but this is usually understood at the national level. Our intent is to suggest that it must also be analyzed at the city or at the neighborhood level. Second, and as consequence of that first element, the territorial fragmentation of cities must not only be understood from a social point of view as a process of segregation or even fragmentation. It is all the more a technical and political fragmentation which adds to the prevailing differentiation patterns.