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Conflict in Cities and the Contested State

Everyday life and the possibilities for transformation in Belfast, Jerusalem and other divided cities

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‘Conflict in Cities and the Contested State’ focuses on divided cities as key sites in territorial conflicts over state and national identities, cultures and borders. The research objectives are to analyse how divided cities in Europe and the Middle East have been shaped by ethnic, religious and national conflicts, and conversely, how such cities can absorb, resist and potentially play a role in transforming the territorial conflicts, which pervade and surround them. The project seeks to understand divided cities as arenas of intensified ethno-national conflicts, particularly with respect to the role that architecture and the urban fabric play as a setting and background for everyday activities and events. Phenomena related to creating, maintaining, crossing, transcending, and possibly ignoring ethnic and territorial borders, both physical and symbolic, are central to the study. The main research sites are Belfast and Jerusalem, two very distinctive cities - one firmly embedded in the West and one central to the Middle East - and both at different stages of national conflict and peace building.

A team of researchers from three UK universities, Cambridge, Exeter and Queen’s Belfast, are leading the multi-disciplinary initiative that includes: architecture, urban studies, politics, geography and sociology. Teams reflecting the divisions being researched are carrying out work in situ in Belfast and Jerusalem. Seven PhD students have been attached to the programme since September 2008 and, in conjunction with an international network of academics and practitioners, are working on the divided cities of Brussels, Berlin, Mostar, Nicosia, Berlin, Beirut, Tripoli and Kirkuk.

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