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Rhythms and the interstice: Negotiations of history and memories through Beirut's central square

Harfouche, E; (2006) Rhythms and the interstice: Negotiations of history and memories through Beirut's central square. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Since its inception, Lebanon was blessed and condemned by two major characteristics: a multi ethnic population, and a strategic position between the West and the Orient. Both were sources of richness through their negotiations of cultures but were also points of weakness when debates over the historicity and ideology of the country become complicated and cross-cut by ethnic and religious differences and divisions, intertwined with regional affiliations and influences. The capital Beirut constituted a microcosm of the social fabric. It hosted through its central square negotiations of identities between the various indigenous communities and exposed these either to transitory foreign identities, whether fleeting regional liberals or travellers crossing the square that constituted the harbour's gateway to the Levant, or to more enduring foreign identities through occupation, tutelage or mandate. Throughout its historical existence, Martyrs square remained a pluralistic space that managed to evade slippage into exclusive hegemony. It was a tolerant meeting ground, unique in a country where consensus amongst the various constitutive communities is a rare commodity, whether in narrative or discursive accounts of historical sites, may they be temporal or spatial. With its physical destruction during the civil war of 1975-90, the understanding of Martyrs square evolved from physical to mental, from a geometric to a symbolic centre, an imagined one, and earned the label of national landmark. The intense debate surrounding the formal and functional aspects of the reconstruction of this site evidence its symbolism concomitantly to post-war conceptions that the Lebanese are having of themselves, their common history, shared memories, and physical environments. In simplification of the interpretations advanced behind the symbolism of this site, for the majority revolving around its grandiose collective aspect, whether historical or memorial, we propose that the whole nostalgia does not surpass its 'everyday', the lived, in short its 'rhythms'. Hence, we will try to decipher this symbolism and understand the multiplicity of meanings/interpretations in their underlying complex interplay between history, memory, and identity with and through a physical/mental site, as part of daily rhythmic interaction. To this end we will use the unfinished work of Henri Lefebvre on rhythms, 'Rhythmanalysis', and we will renew interest in the term 'Interstice' through the chronological formal and functional study of Martyrs square.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Rhythms and the interstice: Negotiations of history and memories through Beirut's central square
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification:
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1570278
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