Mapping Beirut through its Tenants' Stories

May 2015 - December 2016

This project studied the impacts of market-driven developments and policies on housing rights in Beirut and the creation of social and spatial injustices, resulting in the displacement of many low and middle-income families. To counteract these processes, the project mapped abandoned buildings, vacant apartments, rent-controlled units, evictions, housing arrangements and changes in land ownership. The research was rooted within a vision of historicizing housing in relation to neighborhoods, while addressing the question of how do people - who are not covered by any property rights - inhabit the city?

Team: 
Alina Oueishek
Abir Saksouk
Monica Basbous
May Nabhan
Maissa Kassir
Nadine Bekdache
Participants: 

Tareek Jdeede: Sherine Assaf, Hanine Ghattas, Dunia Salameh, Jumana Yehia, Ali Rachid, Jad Baaklini, Tala Azzam, Alina Oueishek, Ziad Qablawi, Mariam Amine, Khalil Hariri

Badawi: Maissa Kassir, Nathalie Bekdache, Jean Michel Noun, Monica Basbous, Joanna Haddad, Alain Ibrahim

Mossaitbe: Liliana Sakr, Yammine Yammine, Elias Asmar, Saba Samra, Dany Tedy

Roum: Shadi Faraj, Rita Nasr, Wael Moawwad, Fatmeh Awali, Alain Ibrahim

Chiah: Rayan Mohsen, Rita Nasr, Jenifer Chouaity, Dunia Ezzedine, Charbel Saad, Laila Qabalan, Sasha Youssef, Amani Majed, Roland Nassour, Layal Samaha, Yara al Haswani, Ehab Hajj, Mohamad Mortada

Partners: 

Arab Council for Social Sciences www.theacss.org

Resources: 
  • Video of the exhibition and public debate held at Mansion on 14 December 2016. You can watch it on this link
  • You can download research findings of all 5 neighborhood workshops on the following links: Tareek Jdeede، Badawi، Mossaitbe، Roum، Chiah  
Presented In: 
  • Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy at the American University of Beirut, as part of a conference titled “Urban Inequalities and Poverty”, January 2016
  • Kuwait University, as part of the IASTE conference “Legitimizing Tradition”, December 2016
  • Kindly refer to the Arabic page for a full list of writings published in Arabic

Beirut has often been described as a “giant construction site”. Neoliberal policies have been driven by a vision of Beirut that aligns the city's future to the interests of private Lebanese and Arab Gulf capital and investors. Luxury towers continue to be erected over the rubble of previous homes and old buildings once inhabited by working class families.

To counteract these policies that are fragmenting lives and neighborhoods, we chose to study, shape and implement strategies that go against the current patterns of mass evictions and displacement. Narratives related to the gradual destruction of livelihoods, social networks and neighborhoods - as told by old tenants residing in Beirut -  allow us to decry the marketization of land, reaffirm its social value, recognize the multiplicity of meanings a home can take.

We conducted participatory research workshops in 5 neighborhoods in Beirut: Tareek Jdeede, Badawi, Mossaitbe, Roum, and Chiah. Participants were given training in urban issues, mapping, ethnography and fieldwork. The workshops follow an adaptable structure: First, methods of research are discussed, as participants conduct in-depth interviews with old tenants. Second, fieldwork sessions aim to engage participants with stakeholders, as discussions revolve around the actors involved in urban planning. Lastly, participants produce maps that narrate and make visible the research conducted in the first two sessions.

Throughout, we produce counter-knowledge on the issue of rent control and the future of the city in order to influence current rent law-making and re-infuse the much-needed political dimension to the right to the city for all its residents.