Borders, Boundaries, and Frontiers

On Jerusalem's present geopolitics

Authored by: Haim Yacobi

Routledge Handbook on Middle East Cities

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138650749
eBook ISBN: 9781315625164
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter argues that while ethnocracy was a relevant analytical framework for understanding the urban dynamics of Jerusalem/al-Quds up until two decades ago, this is no longer the case. As Yacobi demonstrates, the city’s geopolitical balance, its means of demographic control, an intensifying militarization, and a growing use of state violence have over the past twenty years or so transformed the city from an ethnocracity into an urban apartheid. This article explores the relevance of geopolitics to the study of urban space in contested territories, with a specific focus on Jerusalem’s colonial geographies. The main theoretical argument is that the geopolitics of cities involve a crossing of scales – from the neighbourhood scale to the city level and then to the colonial apparatuses of the state – which involves borders and territoriality, the impact of which is not diminishing. Rather, we should pay attention to new scales of territorial affiliations and recognizable borders that may be flexible but that are still selective on different geographical scales. The article focuses on the relevance of geopolitics to the study of the production of urban space: geopolitics is not merely a discussion of international relations and conflict or of the roles of military acts and wars in producing space; rather, it is also a discussion of the emergence of discourses and forces connected with the technologies of control, patterns of internal migrations by individuals and communities, and the flow of cultures and capital.

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