|2006||Holder of B.Sc. Architectural Engineering (BZU, Palestine)|
|2009||MSc. International Cooperation & Urban Development (TU-Darmstadt, Germany)|
|2010||M.Arch in Housing, Urbanization and Sustainability in Development Contexts (UI-Catalunya, Spain)|
Doctoral Candidate at ARUS
Natasha Aruri [Dr.Phil, M.Sc., M.Arch] – urbanist, architect and activist. I worked east and north of the Mediterranean as a consultant, researcher, conceptor and manager. I am interested in domains concerned with cities of exasperated insecurities; spacio-politics of and resistance to (neo)colonialism; and facing uncertainties through dynamic strategies of spatial planning and design.
100 × Ramallah: imaginations, otherness, and (de)colonization in antispaces of sumud 1914 - 2014
100 x Ramallah is an investigation of spatial (re-)imagineering of the city of
Ramallah, Palestine since the demise of the Osmans and over the past century
of Anglo-Zionist colonisation, and an exploration of what could follow. The line
of evolution of successive Ramallite spacio-sensibilities transcribes the tensions
of nonuniform yet cyclical tides of centralised hegemonic control and counterresistance.
By triangulating morphological and territorial shifts with sociodemographics
and politico-economic orders this work argues through three
First, Ramallah’s city-space is a product of an articulate colonial project
whose discourse promotes narrow homogenised imaginaries of ethnicities and
national identities, and therewith sterilised, surveilled and securitized spaces.
These concepts have been inducing variations of both, co-optation and opposition.
In the same line, neoliberal development discourses continue to infantalize
target populations as passive recipients. Hence, these are decisively myopic to
the fact that the latter are capable of engendering alternative imaginations, and
in cases where these materialise into realities they are rejected and combated as
anomalies. The result has been the (intentional?) creation of a mutated system
of bureaucratic, incompatible administration that repeatedly fails to provide for
basic socioeconomic needs, therewith shared development and stability. In effect,
what has been unfolding in Palestine is de-development.
Second, the dialectic Marxist discourse contends urbanities as natural
decodings of psycho-ecological processes. Understood from this perspective, the
post-Oslo contestation and frustration in the city can be traced to the exasperation
of social otherness beyond regular metropolitan symptoms, due to the acute
increase in scales of uncertainty (diminishing securities), inequality and spatial
non-dignity. Through mapping the behavioural trend of re-making of sumud
(social resilience) it can be concluded that tensions are bound to be released
through (mostly ad hoc) techniques and formations of citizen mobilisations.
Identified factors and scholarship indicate an elevated possibility of violence;
whether due to high levels of militarisation by the nation-state policing discourses
or its vulnerability to natural misfortunes. The scales and impacts of clandestine
sub-group activities in turn depends on several factors, one of which is the
manner by which the city-space will be produced in the coming, critical decades.
Third, urban design, planning, and management are tools often advocated
as bearers of welfare and rarely admitted as enablers of mental as well as corporeal
crisis. These are professions that by nature capitalise on and catalyse political
ideologies which include/exclude anticonformist visionaries in/from formal
processes of socio-spatial production. Here Ramallah presents no exception to
the neocolonial rule, where its planners (rightfully) blame the failure in forging
egalitarian urbanism on racial subjugation and instability, yet fall short of
constructively labouring applicable alternatives that account for uncertainty. In
cities like Ramallah where subjective temporalities constantly produce new riskstrategies
and population flows, static frameworks of indexed mechanisms and
hierarchies are rendered obsolete. In combination with today’s digitally-enabled pseudo-concrete realities and heightened levels of privatization; Ramallah’s
resilience necessitates that it democratizes spatial production and therewith
decolonize its spaces based on concepts of the civic right to flourishing. The
future shape and degree of resilience/sumud depend on the ability of the (selfdeclared)
Ramallites to spatialize (grant legitimacy to) their diversity, fluidity,
and inter-relevance. To that end, an Umdenkenprozess about the role and range of
fields of interventions of Ramallite urban visionaries is quintessential.
The outline of this work spreads over six chapters, starting with setting the
parameters, territorial and temporal back-drop, and elaborates on the hypotheses.
The second chapter focuses on tracing and understanding the spatial evolution of
the city through cross-comparing those to political and socioeconomic elements;
hence philosophically differentiating between projected (imagined, mental) and
grounded (scientific, real) meanings, ideologies, and their economic, social and
particularly spatial trails and implications. Chapter three expounds on the politicoeconomic
factors fuelling Ramallah’s spatial tendencies in the past two decades
since the signature of the Oslo Accords in 1993. It simultaneously investigates the
spacio-social relationalities and sensibilities legitimising and incubating these
discourses. Chapters four and five proceed to map urban undertakings by both
public and private parties (respectively); they feature the power and decisionmaking
mandates and influence; modes of operation, structures and systematic
variables; the most relevant projects and engagements; theoretical genealogies
and comparative cases; foreseen sociospatial consequences, and; the underlying
opportunities. Chapter 6 concludes this work with puzzling the findings of former
chapters in variable imaginations of alternative urban realities that Ramallah could
potentially produce. Through re-negotiating the existing colonial morphology
and centralized, bureaucratic decision-making systems, this chapter explores
opportunities for nurturing environmentally, economically and politically resilient,
inclusive and progressive spaces of resistance and sociospatial decolonization.
In the current critical moment for Palestine specifically and cities featuring anticolonial
revolutions generally; modes of spatial absorption, scaling, synthesis, and
reimagineering of locational social ideologies and movements is essential for the
quality of life and dignity.
Along the process arguments are based on scholarly review of a wide range of
works from varying disciplines, both academic and otherwise. These were crossanalysed
with empirical data collected through twenty qualitative interviews,
eight focus groups, observations and quantitative indicators; collected through
eight field-visits totalling thirty-two weeks and spanning over intervals of six
months in average.
Aside the scientific motivations of this work, it desires to serve as a scholarly
narrative that coalesces some facets of the momentary polemics, voiced aspirations
and intellectual brainstorming about Ramallah. This five-year process has
travelled through multitude of provocative and inspiring conversations, debates,
and assemblies, and herewith aims at expounding on concepts of insurgent
urbanism. The reflections outlined here do not claim premise to foreclosing or
limiting differing understandings and interpretations; rather it calls attention to a
selection of polychromic aspects requiring deeper investigation.