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All That Is Holy Is Profaned: Building War through Militarization, Memorialization, and Recreationalization of the Urban Middle East

  • Author(s): Melika, Ayda
  • Advisor(s): AlSayyad, Nezar;
  • Shanken, Andrew
  • et al.
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Abstract

The greatest enemy of humanity is not war; it is the illusion of humanism and peacemaking. The convergence of militarization, memorialization, and recreationalization is a widespread modern phenomenon observed in spatial and architectural manifestations worldwide. For example, memorial parks have often been dedicated to the memory of wars while simultaneously designed for recreational activities. In this dissertation, I examine how these sites, which are often erected under the legitimizing banner of humanitarian or sacred values, are designed to have political socialization and militarization effects on the users. The neoliberal militarization of spaces of daily life, collective memory and recreations shape the political landscape of our world threatening societies with a slow but steady normalization of war and the spread of a deadly culture of global violence. Implementation of extensive spatial militarization, memorialization, and recreationalization is aiding the spread of neoliberalism in the formation of new Middle Eastern cities. Decades of US interventions under peace keeping and humanitarian banners have fueled Islamic fundamentalism and sectarianism, which preserves instability and animosity among the large oil-producing nations of the Middle East. In this dissertation, I examine the war-ridden landscapes of the Middle East as the most militarized spatial manifestation of a globally spreading neoliberal militant governmentality that I call militantality.

Methods used in my research include literature review, archival research, newspaper and released top-secret CIA document analysis, as well as ethnographical methods, such as observation, participatory observation and interviews. Moreover, for my field research I traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Turkey, and the Lebanese Republic where I focused on several main case study sites such as Iran’s Museum of Holy Defense, Turkey’s Panorama 1453 History Museum, and Mleeta, Lebanon’s multimillion-dollar theme park of martyrdom.

The explorations and arguments in my dissertation are organized in three parts: militarization, memorialization, and recreationalization. Part one starts with a broad review of cultures of violence in developing countries in relation to the spread of colonialism, nationalism, advancement of warfare, and neoliberal imperialism. This is followed by chapter three, which is an in-depth investigation of the militarization of the Middle East, the world’s most extensively militarized and conflict-ridden region. Focusing on the United States imperialistic militarization of the Middle East, and Iran as my main case study, I argue that a lucrative economy of enmity fuels the regional wars, making military institutions ever stronger, while preventing any fundamental change to structures of power. Using Iraq as the main case study, the following three chapters in part two, explore the relationship between memory and violence in the Middle East in the twenty-first century. First, I offer an interdisciplinary approach for the study of memorials as media, followed by chapter five where I argue there has been what I call a memory-centric warfare waged against the region by the United States’ neoliberal military complex, producing, preserving and perpetuating sectarianism. Highlighting the role of scholar’s in militarizing cultural knowledge, I dedicate the next chapter to arguing that memory has been utilized as weapons of mass disorientation. In part three, I argue that new forms of Islamized spaces of recreation and leisure have emerged out of the interplay between terrorism and tourism through which local leaders militarize fate, history, and culture in order to expand neo-liberal urbanism. Using the Panorama 1453 Historical Museum in Istanbul, Turkey as my main case study, I argue that the converged militarized recreational landscapes of memory are both triumphs of neoliberal hegemony and symbolic edifices intended to generate fear in external enemies while simultaneously aiming to maintain order at home. I further demonstrate how these sites are designed to achieve the consent of the masses to further expand militarized urbanism by indoctrinating, legitimizing, and disseminating the ideas and values of dominant ideological, economic, and military leaders.

Finally, in the epilog, I conclude that the spatial and architectural manifestations of the global militarized neoliberal imperialism can, by design, only perpetuate violence. Further I argue that we have entered a time of militantality where the overwhelmingly militant structure of our governments has encroached on the spaces of everyday life, leading to a highly militarized world where people are socialized into a culture of violence.

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This item is under embargo until March 29, 2023.