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Urban Social Movements Explored at City Debates 2017
3/22/2017
Jennifer Muller  |  Office of Communications  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 

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For three days in March, the Department of Architecture and Design was transformed into an international and multidisciplinary meeting place where AUB students, faculty, and alumni had the opportunity to engage in wide-ranging and provocative discussions with academics and professionals in a variety of fields. City Debates 2017 explored urban-based political movements in various national contexts and sought to investigate how such movements affect scholars and professionals of the built environment. 

City Debates is an annual conference coordinated by the Masters in Urban Planning, Policy, and Design programs of the Department of Architecture and Design in the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (FEA). The title of this year’s conference was inspired by the 1968 slogan sous le pavés, la plage (under the paving stones, the beach), described as “a pledge of hope against all odds” by Dr. Mona Fawaz, associate professor in urban studies and planning at AUB.

The conference included two keynote addresses; eight panels and roundtable discussions; and a movie screening of “Landless Moroccans.”  The panels and roundtables were filled with an astounding array of professors in fields ranging from urban planning and architecture to history, sociology, anthropology, and Africana studies. In addition, there were a number of practicing professionals, offering their unique perspectives.  

Just as the panelists came from all over the world, their topics of inquiry were also global in nature.  They spoke on social movements including grassroots activism in Poland, migrant women in Madrid, and the black diaspora in the US. Several of the panelists also discussed movements closer to home, such as Beirut Madinati and urban activism in Egypt.

“This is one of the events I look forward to all year because it allows us to flex our muscles intellectually with our faculty in (as of Friday) the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture,” said President Khuri at the opening ceremony. “It is particularly important in this era that AUB lead by example, encouraging open, intellectual debate.”

Also speaking at the opening event on March 20, Interim Dean of FEA Alan Shihadeh remarked on the tremendous level of civic engagement within the Architecture and Design Department.

“On TV and radio, on the streets, in municipal offices, in the centers of concentrated power… and in fora like City Debates, these faculty have consistently advocated for more livable, sustainable, and equitable cities,” said Dr. Shihadeh, adding that they “uphold the central notion that the academic enterprise, if it stands for anything, stands to make democracy possible.”

This theme of democracy was echoed in the first keynote address of the conference, delivered by Dr. Ananya Roy, an internationally renowned researcher and author, who is professor of urban planning at UCLA and director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy at UCLA Luskin. “It is our task, I believe—as urbanists, as planners, as architects—to think from within the state, not beyond it,” said Dr. Roy at the conclusion of her presentation.

The second keynote address was given by Dr. Asef Bayat, professor of global and transnational studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, focusing on uprisings in the cities of Tehran, Cairo, and Tunis.  

City Debates 2017 was put together by a scientific committee, coordinated by Dr. Mona Fawaz, with students playing a key role in the planning and organization. It was held in collaboration with the Social Justice and the City program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public ​Policy and International Affairs and was included as one of the 40th anniversary events of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. As always, the conference grew large crowds of students and faculty members from many AUB departments as well as from other universities in Lebanon, underscoring the value of this forum to many people.

“This conference has really become for us the platform through which we contribute to the region and the city, and engage our students with what we think are theoretically important but also practically relevant questions,” said Dr. Fawaz.
Story Highlights
  • ​​For three days in March, the Department of Architecture and Design was transformed into an international and multidisciplinary meeting place where AUB students, faculty, and alumni had the opportunity to engage in wide-ranging and provocative discussions with academics and professionals in a variety of fields.
  • City Debates 2017 explored urban-based political movements in various national contexts and sought to investigate how such movements affect scholars and professionals of the built environment.
 
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