November 3rd-5th, 2018

​​عمّان المُعاصرة والحقْ

في المديـنة

Contemporary Amman and the Right to the City

Register for the Conference 

تسجيل لحضور المؤتمر

Conference Brief

A city of four million inhabitants today, Amman’s expansion has become disproportionate to its urban history. Amman has experienced an impressive urban growth over the past fifty years, driven by forced migration and market laws. Developing from a small rural settlement at the end of the 19th century, Amman evolved into a regional crossroad at the end of the 20th century, and has become today a symbol for the consolidation of Hashemite rule, and as a result, the site of its contestation. Amman’s exceptional position among other regional capitals and its recent urban history has forced its inhabitants to create narratives concerning the city’s foundation, invent urban traditions, and negotiate ways of socialization.

As housing and upgrading policies have slowed down, and plans to develop a robust public transport system remain underdeveloped, Amman’s residents are struggling on a daily basis to circulate, house themselves and their families, study, work and relax. Public participation is regularly discussed in the media and public sphere, and residents are looking for ways to mend the gap between their aspirations for Amman, and the reality of living conditions in the city. In the 21st century, Amman has become an intellectual, diplomatic and economic center in the region. Those changes have had a large impact on the everyday life of its inhabitants, on the composition of the population of the city and on its regional and international perception and influence.

This conference seeks to present three interrelated themes through which the right to the city can be understood, articulated or negotiated. These themes include Urban Policies and Governance; Social Fabric and Urban Practices; and Living in Amman: Housing, Access, and Speculative Growth.

Organizing Committee: Myriam Ababsa (Ifpo), Nora Akawi (Columbia University GSAPP / Studio-X Amman / Columbia Global Centers | Amman), Jawad Dukhgan (Studio-X Amman / Columbia Global Centers | Amman), Nadine Fattaleh (Studio-X Amman / Columbia Global Centers | Amman), Falestin Naïli (Ifpo), Norig Neveu (CNRS / IREMAM)










4-5 NOV



Open Call For Papers


Please submit your abstracts (up to 350 words) to


The paper topics must tackle one of the themes discussed below. Abstracts will be reviewed by the conference’s scientific committee and organizers. Selected participants will be provided with travel assistance and accommodation for the duration of the conference.

  1. Urban Policies and Governance


In a city which has known a development as rapid as Amman, the evolution of urban policies and structures of urban governance is of major importance. Tracing the origins of the municipality from the late Ottoman period until today, this panel will focus on structures of decision-making in the urban context. Urban policies and governance will be examined against the economic and political dynamics from which they arose while paying attention to both individual and collective actors involved.  


Some topics to address could include:

  • Political actors in debates around urban policies: How do politicians, mayors, municipal engineers, international donors, foreign experts, NGOs, and civil society organizations influence and negotiate urban decision-making in Amman?

  • Origins, continuities, or genealogies of urban policy regulations: How have practices evolved from Ottoman to Mandate to Modern Amman.

  • Evolution of public participation and civil society organizations: How can/do the inhabitants of Amman voice, contest, challenge or influence urban policies? Which civic practices have proved most productive? What is the role of regional and international solidarity in local struggles for urban social justice?


    2. Social Fabric and Urban Practices


The second axis of this conference focuses on the social fabric of Amman and the definition of a sense of common belonging to a pluralist urban community. Inhabitants of Amman are constructing an urban identity based on their spatial and social imaginations. The investigation will engage with the ways in which urban narratives of Amman, developed by specific communities, neighborhoods or demographics of the population, inscribe themselves in the the physical, social and discursive fabric of the city.


Some topics to address could include:

  • Social dynamics of the city beyond categories of citizenship and national belonging; how can citizens and refugees co-create the fabric of the city?

  • The architectural and social typologies of districts, neighborhoods, and urban camps, and their relevance to urban social dynamics.

  • What does it mean to be from Amman for groups sharing the same age group, political affiliation, gender, common kin, religion, or ethnic group?

  • Defining an inclusive history of the city. How is the urban heritage of Amman defined?


    3. Living in Amman: Housing, Access, and Speculative Growth


Speculative growth enhanced by neoliberal governance, foreign direct investment and political turmoil has affected the distribution of wealth as well as access to resources and opportunities across the city. Questions of accessibility, inclusion, opportunity and equality are re-evaluated in this moment of Amman’s position within the regional and global sphere. This panel will focus on the current context of urban planning policies as they relate to the provision of essential services to residents including housing, water, electricity, transportation, education and social services.


Some topics to address could include:

  • What is the effect of neoliberal economic policies on the urban fabric of the city?

  • How have policies regarding housing, transportation, or education in the city evolved?

  • How has the organization of humanitarian aid affected inhabitants, both refugee and host communities?

Download a pdf version of the open call here


Conference Organizers

Ifpo, the Institut français du Proche-Orient (French Institute for the Near East), is at the service of knowledge production on the societies of the Near-East with a focus on Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Iraq. It covers all disciplines of the social sciences and the humanities, and all the periods from Prehistory to today.

Ifpo's three scientific departments (Contemporary Studies; Medieval, Arab and Modern Studies; Archaeology and History of the Antiquity) allow the institute to develop a vast array of partnerships with a view to producing knowledge as a common and shared endeavour between the researchers at the Institute, scholars in the societies that host Ifpo, and the rest of the scientific community.

Columbia Global Centers | Amman was established in March 2009 as one of the first in the network of Columbia Global Centers. The global centers promote and facilitate the collaborative and impactful engagement of the University’s faculty, students, and alumni with the world to enhance understanding, address global challenges, and advance knowledge and its exchange. The centers are located in Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, and Tunis. The Amman Center serves as a hub for programs and educational initiatives throughout the Middle East; providing Columbia faculty and students with opportunities to expand their research and scholarship, but also as a conduit for knowledge exchange and skill development with local and regional academics, experts and practitioners.

Studio-X Amman is a regional platform for experimental design and research in architecture run by Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) and Columbia Global Centers | Amman. Through workshops, lectures, screenings, and field visits, Studio-X Amman brings together Columbia GSAPP students and faculty with practitioners, researchers, and students from the Arab World to critically reflect on the role of architecture education and practice in times of mass displacement, dispossession, and destruction, and in the construction of alternative collective imaginaries for our cities.

Photos by Antonio Ottomanelli