The Art of War: Deleuze, Guattari, Debord and The Israeli Defence Force (2006) Eyal Weizman. / Video explaining his latest book “Roundabout Revolution” ARCH+ features 23: Eyal Weizman.
The IDF’s [Israeli Defence Force] strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.
Indeed, the reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim,the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.
“operational architects”.’[The IDF troops define themselves as]
In addition to these theoretical positions, [Shimon] Naveh references such canonical elements of urban theory as the Situationist practices of dérive (a method of drifting through a city based on what the Situationists referred to as‘psycho-geography’) and détournement (the adaptation of abandoned buildings for purposes other than those they were designed to perform). These ideas were, of course, conceived by Guy Debord and other members of the Situationist International to challenge the built hierarchy of the capitalist city and break down distinctions between private and public, inside and outside, use and function, replacing private space with a ‘borderless’ public surface. References to the work of Georges Bataille, either directly or as cited in the writings of [Bernard] Tschumi, also speak of a desire to attack architecture and to dismantle the rigid rationalism of a postwar order, to escape ‘the architectural straitjacket’ and to liberate repressed human desires
In no uncertain terms, education in the humanities – often believed to be the most powerful weapon against imperialism – is being appropriated as a powerful vehicle for imperialism.
Future military attacks on urban terrain will increasingly be dedicated to the use of technologies developed for the purpose of ‘un-walling the wall’, to borrow a term from Gordon Matta-Clark.
When the military talks theory to itself, it seems to be about changing its organizational structure and hierarchies.When it invokes theory in communications with the public – in lectures, broadcasts and publications – it seems to be about projecting an image of a civilized and sophisticated military. And when the military ‘talks’ (as every military does) to the enemy, theory could be understood as a particularly intimidating weapon of ‘shock and awe’, the message being: ‘You will never even understand that which kills you.’
Tahrir: Politics, Publics and Performances of Space (2013) Derek Gregory from the Department of Geography in the University of British Columbia. On the arab-spring (and Butler).
One survey found that nearly 50 percent of people in its sample first heard about the demonstrations in Tahrir through face-to-face communication, 28 percent via Facebook and 13 percent via their mobile phone.
The emphasis on physical space was clearly visible in leaflets circulating in Cairo that showed approach routes, crowd formations and tactics to be used in public demonstrations: as one observer remarked, ‘you can switch off the Internet but not the streets.’ In fact, leaflets urged recipients not to circulate the plans through Twitter or Facebook because they were being monitored by state security and, in several instances, digital platforms were deliberately used to mislead the security forces.
Nasser Rabbat argues more generally that, as authoritarian rule was consolidated in the second half of the twentieth century, ‘public life in Arab cities retreated from the open spaces to the private ones,’ so much so, indeed, that Hussam Hussein Salama suggests that for many Egyptians during those decades, ‘public space’ came to be synonymous with ‘the space that is owned by the government.’ The square, at the heart of modern, downtown Cairo, had been the site of demonstrations since February 1946, when protesters rallied in what was then called Ismailia Square to demand the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt and the Sudan.
Mohamed Elshahed provides an illuminating vignette that illustrates the spatial politics practiced by the state in Tahrir. When the plaza in front of the former Egyptian Museum was fenced off many people thought this was part of the construction for the new Cairo Metro. More than a decade later a sign was put up announcing the excavation of a new underground parking garage. Yet when activists dismantled the fencing in January 2011 they found nothing but an empty space. ‘The area had been taken away from the public sphere precisely to avoid the possibility of large crowds congregating in Tahrir.’
Others, also following in some part Lefebvre, prefer to elucidate spatial practices, including the rhythms and routines that compose everyday life for a myriad of ordinary people in Cairo, residents and visitors, as they moved into, around and out of Tahrir. But to emphasize the performance of space—in the sense that I want to invoke here—is to focus on the ways in which, as Judith Butler put it in direct reference to Tahrir, ‘the collective actions [of the crowd] collect the space itself, gather the pavement, and animate and organize the architecture.’
[…] Lefebvre’s celebration of the ‘festivals’ that he believed distinguished the counter-cultural realm of ‘spaces of representation’ and their defiant re-placing of bodies-in-spaces.24 His formulations were, inevitably, creatures of their time—and in particular the moment and movements of May 1968 in Europe and the United States—but they capture the sense of experimentation, of improvisation and of fluidity that also characterised the Arab uprisings. If those newer, non-Western protests heralded a world in which all that was solid melted into air, however, this was more than a new politics of modernity; it was also a new politics of space, and I think this is captured with artful economy in Adam Ramadan’s (re)description of Tahrir as an encampment, turning it into at once a space and an act: a space-in-process.
May Al-Ibrashy intimated something of this when she wrote of Tahrir on February 9, 2011 that there ‘permanence is folded into waves of change. The cityscape is no longer . . . an open space framed by buildings, but a constantly morphing place shaped by people doing, hoping, building, destroying and being’—or, more accurately, I believe, becoming. As Nasser Abourahme and May Jayyusi wrote in exuberant endorsement, ‘Tahrir Square was the space of the constitution of new collective subjectivities … There was a kind of “becoming” here … ’
Tahrir became the instantiation of what Doreen Massey once called ‘a global sense of place,’ an intricate and intrinsically mobile constellation of the local and the global.28 In Butler’s terms, this new spatiality became ‘transposable,’ which is to say that its performance was at once immediate and mediated. The conjunction of social media and satellite television ensured that what took place (literally so) in Tahrir was relayed around the world.