Jon Calame is an architectural teacher and writer who explores the origins and consequences of urban partition along ethnic lines. In an informative interview with FiveBooks, the professor selected five books that focus on divided cities such as Jerusalem, Belfast and Beirut and then explored their intellectual importance and power.
Here is a section:
Jon, we’re going to talk about divided cities – a subject you know quite a bit about having written a book by that title yourself. A book which took you several years to research and in which you look at five cities – Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar and Nicosia - where physical barriers have been implemented to keep hostile ethnic communities apart. Could you describe briefly what you were attempting to do in that book?
Ever since World War Two, any observer can see that the nature of warfare in general has changed very quickly from conflict between nations over territory in a ‘winner takes all’ fashion to intra-state conflict and civil war. Conflict of a kind where you have different ethnic groups, different identities, duking it out perhaps over territory but perhaps not; for political control or just to wipe one another out. So what you have is a shift from the piled up corpses being guys in uniforms to something else. If you look at the statistics now for those who have died in war since 1945 you see that a growing majority, a shocking majority of those corpses are civilian non-combatants.
We looked into divided cities not because we had a morbid fascination with these traumatised cities, but because they seemed to be a keyhole through which you could glimpse this larger phenomenon relatively clearly. Of course there’s a whole parallel conversation about cities as their own subject, about urban development and urban decay – which is why I’ve also put Lewis Mumford’s classic book on my list. But I’m talking about actual residents of divided cities. Talking about them as the victims and actors of a broader conflict.
The entire piece is highly suggested.