Volume 2014, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2311-8148
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This Culture and Politics senior thesis examines and compares the imagined and the lived experience of the city, using Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, as a model. In a neo-liberal city such as Beirut, group formations can be engaged in multiple hegemonies that affect and define the ‘urban’ city experience. In this thesis, I will label two major group-formations in Beirut that shape its urban experience: the ‘Urbanistas’ and the ‘Biarts.’ The Urbanistas are an affluent upper-class group that imagines a ‘global’ and worldly Beirut that is in connection to the rest of the world. This group then lives its ‘social imaginaire’ of the city in a tightly confined upper-class conceptual map of the downtown, the Zaytouna Bay Area and Rue du Verdun. The Biartis on the other hand, a lower-income group, represent the lived experience of Beirut, living a city of manifestations, contradictions and concerns. I will argue that both groups exhibit a form of hegemony in their city, albeit a different one, and interact with each other in different ways. To explore the role of these groups in the social production of the city, this thesis analyzes interviews with Urbanistas and Biartis, participant observation of the socio- spatial habits of these groups, media coverage of Beirut and advertisement, pictorials and street art within enclaves of the city. Due to the multiple hegemonies of these groups, the ‘global’ city should no longer be taken to be identical to its image. Groups such as the Urbanistas, wishing to engage in a global and capitalist experience of urban city life, present a singular image of cities that is an imagined reflection of them. While groups such as the Biartis, have an inward looking experience, shaping the notion of the city through their daily lived occurrences.


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