In Visions of Beirut: The Urban Life of Media Infrastructure (Duke UP, 2021), Hatim El-Hibri explores how the creation and circulation of images has shaped the urban spaces and cultural imaginaries of Beirut. Drawing on fieldwork and texts ranging from maps, urban plans, and aerial photographs to live television and drone-camera footage, El-Hibri traces the histories of how the technologies and media infrastructure that visualize the city are used to consolidate or destabilize regimes of power. Throughout the twentieth century, colonial, economic, and military mapping projects helped produce and govern its spaces. In the 1990s, the imagery of its post-civil war downtown reconstruction cast Beirut as a site of financial investment in ways that obscured its ongoing crises. During and following the 2006 Israel/Hizbullah war, Hizbullah's use of live television broadcasts of fighting and protests along with its construction of a war memorial museum at a former secret military bunker demonstrate the tension between visualizing space and the practices of concealment. Outlining how Beirut's urban space and public life intertwine with images and infrastructure, El-Hibri interrogates how media embody and exacerbate the region's political fault lines.
Mathew Gagné in an independent writer, scholar, and educator, currently teaching in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.