CONFERENCE: The Legacy of Old Laws and the Fight for the Commons in Lebanon (Abstract)

Abir Saksouk-Sasso

Dictaphone Beirut

The paper focuses on shared space along the coast of Lebanon, and the ways in which legislation, master plans and property transformations have undermined the social and vernacular uses of these sites, while prioritizing investment in the tourism and service sectors. Contrary to popular belief that private encroachment by the real estate sector began in the civil war and post-civil war periods, my research supports the claim that it was since the 1943-1958 period that the state has been actively intervening in support of a specific class and their visions, at the detriment of the shared commons and vernacular ways of life.

By presenting the cases of Dalieh, Jnah, and Saida, the research demonstrates how state legal interventions have opened new realms for tourist investment, consequently transforming vernacular coastal sites by disrupting their long social, cultural and local-economic uses. Some examples from the studied cases show that the years 1948 and 1955 saw dramatic legal and cadastral transformations that were later to affect the Lebanese coast. As such, exploring state interventions on the coast during the 1943-1958 period reveals the roots of state institutional reshaping of urban space, mainly through issuing laws that strategically modify / interpret early French mandate laws. This historical outlook is crucial to understand how decision-makers or public administrators have institutionalized the interests of the elite rather than shared interest.