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  • Social Housing in the Middle East: Architecture, Urban Development, and Transnational Modernity ed. by Mohammad Gharipour and Kıvanç Kılinç
  • Burak Erdim (bio)
Mohammad Gharipour and Kıvanç Kılinç, eds. Social Housing in the Middle East: Architecture, Urban Development, and Transnational Modernity Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019 336 pages, 79 black-and-white illustrations ISBN: 9780253039859, $38 PB ISBN: 9780253039842, $85 HB ISBN: 9780253039873, $14.99 EB

"What is a house? Among other things, it is an instrument for distributing economic risk and opportunity among individuals and institutions," wrote Jonathan Massey, adding, "Through the financial structures that organize homeownership, American houses mediate our relation to state and market—they are instruments of governmentality."1 During the post–World War II period, decolonizing and modernizing states sought to establish their own models of housing and citizenship as evidence of their sovereignty and independence, while they also looked to American, European, and Soviet experiments in social and economic development. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring and at a time when the Middle East is going through substantial upheavals and transformation, the essays collected by Kıvanç Kılınç and Mohammad Gharipour in Social Housing in the Middle East provide a timely look at the history of state formation through the lens of social housing in the region. While many postwar international programs focused on housing and construction finance as the building block of national economies, the essays in this volume reveal how governments in the Middle East used housing policies as a primary mode for crafting their own modes of governmentality and state–citizen contracts. At the same time, one of the aims of the book is to reclaim "the globality of social housing in the Middle East," showing that projects of modernization are not "the invention and territory of the West" and that the numerous projects implemented in the Middle East "both relate to and diverge from Western practices" (19), drawing attention to the importance of exploring such parallels for a broader understanding of modernity during this period.

The book is organized in three sections—settings, histories, and design and construction of social housing—covering a range of time periods and social and political contexts in multiple countries. Section one, on the settings of social housing, opens with Eliana Abu-Hamdi's analysis of the formation of satellite cities under the Greater Amman Comprehensive Development Plan (GACDP) in Jordan during the 1980s. Abu-Hamdi shows how the GACDP served as a vehicle for the Jordanian state to consolidate its power over the multiple tribes that held sections of greater Amman. Modern housing provisions framed the state as a sovereign purveyor of modernity against tradition and tribalism, serving to build a loyal and uniform body of citizenship. At the same time, housing and development projects created new social divisions between Jordanian citizens and Palestinian refugees who received fewer subsidies. In the second essay, Mohamed Elshahed tells how architect Mahmoud Riad sought to mobilize the architectural profession in Egypt to address the housing question in the aftermath of the coup d'état of 1952. Framing the provision of efficient hygienic housing as essential for national progress, Riad sought to formalize a coalition between multidisciplinary teams of professionals and the state to generate sound policy development. In formulating the workings of this coalition, Riad pointed especially to England's model of the welfare state while also grounding such models on local conditions of finance mechanisms, inflation, costs of construction, incomes, and rents. However, as Elshahed shows, short-term political interests overrode the architects' preference for long-term planning in shaping Egypt's approach to housing. In the last essay of this section, Bülent Batuman examines two relatively recent developments in Turkey as a case of how Islamist neoliberal states used housing and construction as a major component of their cultural politics during the last two decades. Taking a close look at the formation of Başakşehir, an Islamist suburb of Istanbul, Batuman shows how President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan consolidated his Islamist base through a series of housing and development programs he began as the mayor of Istanbul. Through housing provisions, Islamist discourse on morality and...


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pp. 132-134
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