Towards a new perspective on the role of the city in social movements: Urban Policy after the ‘Arab Spring’
City , Volume 22 - Issue 2 p. 220- 235
Cities were at the centre of the ‘Arab Spring’, but did they play a decisive role or were they just the passive settings in which these uprisings took place? This paper develops a new way of understanding the role of the city in social movements by looking at changes and continuities in urban policy in North Africa after the ‘Arab Spring’. The paper’s main argument is that the role of the city in social movements can be understood through an analysis of governments’ urban policy responses to those movements. First, it shows that North African urban policy has always reacted sensitively to social unrest and that neoliberal planning schemes have even strengthened this sensitivity. Second, the paper provides an empirical comparative analysis of urban policy in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia after the ‘Arab Spring’. The study shows that public authorities give pivotal attention to public space and to informal settlements as they have been stigmatised as breeding grounds of social unrest and as a threat to the political establishment.