Heritage and the Middle East: Cities, power, and memory

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5 Scopus citations


In a moment of global urban change, migration, and political transformation, the politics and practices of cultural heritage might seem to have little import. However, this paper argues that focusing on cultural heritage in the Middle East provides two key insights with much broader relevance. First, examining how heritage is made (and unmade) shows one way that regions are constructed through the articulation of material and symbolic connections. Second, these regions might be better understood not as containers but as complexes in and in relation to which people articulate and communicate shared meanings. These insights build upon and extend recent theorizations of cultural geopolitics. In surveying an interdisciplinary body of scholarship on Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Gulf, this article seeks to expand the linkages between geography and Middle East area studies scholarship. It begins by connecting current debates about planetary urbanization in relation to a historiography of the “Middle Eastern city” and suggests that thinking in terms of heritage provides a novel approach for understanding both new and old regional imaginaries. It then highlights three dynamics that make the politics of heritage distinct in this region. It closes with a discussion of the dual role that heritage can play in both contesting and facilitating top-down projects of dispossession and urban transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12477
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Middle East
  • heritage
  • memory
  • national identity
  • regional geography
  • urban transformation
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Social Sciences
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Atmospheric Science


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