Re-Imagining Spaces for Representation in the Divided City
: The Cases of Urban Street Art in ‘Post’- Conflict Beirut and Belfast

  • Omar El Masri

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The research study investigates the social and political dimension of contemporary street art production in the deeply divided cities of Beirut and Belfast. Specifically, it examines how historical experiences with the ethnonational and the neoliberal urbanisation of space constitute and maintain the perceptions and motivations of street artists to engage with everyday life. While more is understood on the neoliberal urban and ethnonational impact of social realities on the social perceptions within the milieu of divided cities, much less is understood about the impact of new social realities about the social perceptions of street art communities. The research design for the project compared the urban and social phenomenon of street art in the post-conflict cities of Beirut and Belfast, over a four-month, blended case study and focused ethnography. The researcher conducted twentytwo semi-structured interviews with eighteen street artists, three festival organisers and one city management official, and observed participants while volunteering at two street art festivals in Belfast. By shedding light on some of their artistic practices, the findings reveal that street art communities engage in small- ‘p’ political acts. They re-purpose taken-for-granted spaces within the city to demonstrate how street artists adjust their practices to reveal pragmatic and rule-based forms of placemaking to avoid jarring with sectarian identities while bringing attention to the democratic, transient and transformative nature of their practices. While they do not have an impact on the nature of space, their interactions could remark on the possibilities for the co-production of space. Moreover, they intend to awaken the slumber of urban dwellers with the visceral enjoyment and experiences of creating and producing street art for the inhabitants of the space. While small, their artistic interventions gift the inhabitants of Beirut and Belfast with ephemeral and gratuitous forms of interactions which present an opportunity, however temporary, for different social worlds to meet.
Date of AwardJan 2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsVice Chancellor's Research Scholarship (VCRS)
SupervisorRachel Monaghan (Supervisor) & Kristian Brown (Supervisor)

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