This talk considers infrastructure as a site for the examination of urban governance in Lebanon, in a context of failure of the state to provide basic public services such as electricity and waste. The argument is threefold. First, public infrastructure is a site of political struggle. Political actors seek to make infrastructure serve certain political and social interests, demonstrating their belief that these state institutions and instruments produce a range of effects worth competing for. Second, the talk challenges the view that neoliberalism and sectarianism are radically narrowing and marginalizing the state and its institutions. Third, despite failing to deliver the expected service outcomes, the complex assemblage of more-or-less reformed infrastructural policy instruments produces strong social effects in terms of wealth distribution. These instruments accentuate Lebanese society’s gaps and inequalities. This outcome is largely unintended, as is often the case with public policy instruments. It is a product of the work of state institutions, however, and not proof of their absence. To make this argument, this talk explores urban services in Beirut through the main types of instruments that successive governments and their advisers—commonly from the World Bank and other international organizations—have adopted for their reform: the geographic boundaries of the zones where urban services are organized; the services’ financing instruments, such as subsidies and pricing; and public-private partnerships.
Eric Verdeil is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at Sciences Po, Paris and researcher at the Centre for International Research (CERI). His research deals with the political ecology of urban infrastructure, which he studied in several Middle Eastern Cities with a particular focus on Beirut. He currently leads the collective research Hybridelec. Beyond many articles for international journals, he has coauthored Atlas of Lebanon: the new challenges (forthcoming) and written Beirut and its planners: a city on blueprints (2010).
This workshop is free and there is no registration required. Find all the available videos of our previous workshops, here.
This is the hundredth and fifth in a series of Urban Workshops by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society andpolitics. For further information, please contact: Olivier Telle at firstname.lastname@example.org, Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com or Marie-Hélène Zérah at firstname.lastname@example.org