Call for Abstracts: Imaginaries from a Blackout

Tamara Maatouk's picture

Call for Abstracts

Deadline: 5 June 2022

Today’s global realities highlight the ever present uneven access to infrastructure and services. On the one hand, plans are in motion to build the world’s longest sub-sea cables for transporting solar and wind energy generated in Morocco to provide seven million homes in the UK with electricity. Meanwhile, Beirut has been witnessing protests against power cuts due to fuel shortages for the past two years. The city’s failed infrastructure provides only a fraction of the city’s electrical needs, leaving it dependent on diesel powered private electricity generators and prone to the effects of the monopoly over fuel.

This infrastructural collapse of epic proportions can be seen from Yemen, Syria and Iraq to Libya, Sudan, Lebanon and Palestine, and has become a defining feature of urban and rural life. How would unpacking infrastructural realities inform our understanding of the Arab region and the world? How can we understand our everyday urban/rural realities by looking into the processes of extractivism, production, distribution, management, and disposal? How can we understand soft and hard infrastructural systems in relation to the spectrum of structures ranging from the hegemonic to emancipatory, the global to the local, the centralized to the decentralized, and the giant to the small?

Arab Urbanism welcomes original contributions from researchers, journalists, artists, activists, workers and other concerned citizens for a special issue on everyday experiences and encounters with infrastructures of production and social reproduction. Whether large or small, visible or hidden, broken or efficient, we want to consider the ways infrastructure shape and are shaped by our social, economic, political and environmental realities. Some of the questions/themes that may be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

Infrastructure and Hegemony

Once symbolizing promises of sovereignty, national independence, and development, infrastructural projects are seen in many instances as mediums of hegemony. How can infrastructures in the natural and built environments expose the structures of dispossession, discrimination, displacement, expulsion, alienation, and marginalization? What patterns of violence do different infrastructures produce by disintegrating natural systems, communities, and indigenous practices? How can we better understand local and global political and economic power control through the relations between infrastructure and debt, dependency, labor exploitation, land grabs, toxic pollution and displacement.

Emancipatory Infrastructures 

Within the realities of infrastructural scarcity, deficiency, corruption, and crises in the Arab region, communities are forced to develop alternative social and material infrastructures to counter the classed, racialized, gendered and ableist logics that sustain uneven forms of urban development across the region. How can such failed infrastructures inspire alternative systems of knowledge production, fair governance, and equitable citizenship? What opportunities do the diverse histories of infrastructures and the contemporary everyday acts of resistance and survival offer for imagining future urban and rural commons, as well as emancipatory economic systems, social structures, and cultural practices? 

Ecological Systems as Infrastructures

While Earth’s spheres and ecosystems are disrupted, destroyed, and annihilated at an unprecedented rate as a result of human activity, how can we retreat to natural systems for inspiration in the face of persistent despair, infrastructural failures, and fragmentation of collective lives? What can be learned, for example, from generative and recursive processes and the symbiotic relationships in forests, marshes and other water bodies, and deserts among others? 

We welcome submissions in both English and Arabic. We aim for a readership beyond academic circles. The inclusion of illustrations and photographs in the commentary and essay submissions is highly encouraged.

Submissions can be in the following forms:

  1. Short and provocative commentaries and reviews of books, projects, exhibitions (1500-2000 words);
  2. Long essays or translations* (3000-5000 words);
  3. Visual submissions (art works, sensory experiences, videos, photographs, and sketches) accompanied by a brief (up to 1000-word descriptive text);
  4. Creative writing and literature (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry) that does not exceed 5000 words.

*It is the responsibility of the contributor to seek author’s/publisher’s permission for translations.

Please send a 250-word abstract of your proposed contribution and a 100-word biography before 5 June 2022 by filling the submission form.

We aim to get back to you within four weeks after 5 June 2022. Successful abstracts will be invited to send the full submissions by November 2022.

For inquiries, please email us at:

For the Call of Abstracts in Arabic please go here.