The neutralisation of urban space: architectural strategies of control and activation of urban space in Egypt

Promotors: Els De Vos and Stijn Oosterlynck

City space is an index of power; it is both an instrument of statecraft to enforce hegemony and a stage where socio-political forces perform. It is in the state’s interest to sustain, defend, and reproduce its space. Different political ideologies impose adequate state spaces. In the past decades of late-capitalism and neoliberalism this process has been characterized by a de-historicization and a de-politicization of space. With the increased concern of securitization more military concepts are applied to neutralize space from any possible threat to the state. Hypothetically, this process of neutralization implies the production of apolitical or neutral spaces which primes security, economy, and functional restrictions suppressing social interaction, expression and the emergence of new political spaces.

The past decade has witnessed strong political and social turbulence in Egypt among other countries in the Arab world. Apparently conflicting ideologies struggled to achieve or resist change resulting in two uprisings and four different regimes. Neutralization is one face of this struggle. Different architectural strategies are deployed in this respect which naturally call for different de-neutralization resistance tactics, both forming the substance of this research project as an architectural qualification of social control theories. Despite this struggle is global, the case of Egypt remains unique. On one hand it does not perfectly fit the standard model of neoliberalism, and on the other, the quick succession of regimes presents an opportunity to study different strategies, which adds an extra value to the project.

Mohamad Abotera 
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Mohamad Abotera was trained as an architect and has both a professional and an academic career. He finished his MA in Architecture, Globalisation, and Cultural Identity at the University of Westminster in 2007. Currently, he is a PhD candidate with a project on hegemony and tactical urbanism. His activities include academic teaching and research, cultural project management, and architectural consultations. In 2011 he co-founded Madd platform; an architecture and research collective connecting with other grassroots’ movements to promote and experiment new models of urban development. In his research he is interested in the political dimension of space, unplanned urbanism, representations and urban activism.