For the War Yet to Come by Hiba Bou Akar

Introduction by
Emma Shaw Crane

The promise of urban planning is especially bright in postconflict cities, where planning is expected to bring not only development but also peace. But as Hiba Bou Akar shows in this celebrated book, what followed the 1990 ceasefire was not peace but a “war in times of peace.”

For the War Yet to Come: Planning Beirut’s Frontiers takes up city planning and urban life in postwar Beirut. The promise of urban planning is especially bright in postconflict cities, where planning is expected to bring not only development but also peace. But as Hiba Bou Akar shows in this celebrated book, what followed the 1990 ceasefire was not peace but a “war in times of peace.” This war is fought not with tanks and rifles but with the mundane tools of city planning: land and apartment sales, zoning regulations, infrastructure projects, and new housing developments. For the War Yet to Come challenges the idea that planning means progress and improvement, or that planning is always or necessarily oriented towards a better future. Instead, Bou Akar shows how religious-political organizations, state and municipal governments, developers, and residents produce Beirut’s peripheries not only as frontiers of urban growth and expanding real estate markets, but as frontiers of war.

An “ethnography of spatial practices” in three peripheral neighborhoods of Beirut, For the War Yet to Come documents how, in the aftermath of war, the city is ordered and governed in anticipation of future sectarian violence. This book is a challenge to masculinized military geographies from above, scholarship that reproduces the drone’s eye view of warfare. This literature has usually focused on the destruction of cities: air strikes that target crucial infrastructure, reducing apartment buildings and hospitals to rubble. For the War Yet to Come instead asks us to think ethnographically and invites us to consider the production of urban space as implicated in war.  

The reviews in this forum came from an Author Meets Critics event at the 2019 American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. We wrote these reflections as a political revolution bloomed in the streets of Beirut in fall of 2019. We publish these essays as racist state violence and police terror persists and escalates in cities across the United States. These essays call us to reflect on our shared and contested urban futures and consider how we might subvert those wars yet to come.

essays in this forum

For the War Yet to Come, Review by Mona Atia

Bou Akar breaks apart dichotomies of everyday life and militarization, normalcy and exception, peace and war, planning and chaos, coexistence and segregation, destruction and construction, home and displacement, past and present.

By

Mona Atia

For the War Yet to Come, Review by Sara Fregonese

Linking the urban micro-scale with wider geopolitics, Bou Akar sheds light on Beirut’s complex relationship with its planning, its peripheries, its past and future.

By

Sara Fregonese

For the War Yet to Come, Review by D. Asher Ghertner

"For the War Yet to Come" demonstrates the collapse of the binary between housing and militarized space and expands a topological sense of doubleness into a spatial metaphor used throughout the book.

By

D. Asher Ghertner

For the War Yet to Come, Review by Federico Pérez

Bou Akar makes her way through the ebbs and flows of city life –– from abandoned postwar ruins to patterns of land acquisition and shifts in building codes –– showing the underlying alignments between everyday urban transformations and shifting sectarian fault lines.

By

Federico Pérez

The Search for Hope

What is war and what is not war (or peace) is often blurred. Given such a context in contested geographies, how then do we define hope? When war and peace are not two clear distinct categories: what is hope?

By

Hiba Bou Akar