The politics of sovereignty and space
in Houses built on sand

Politics, for the Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun, concerns ‘the administration of home or city in accordance with ethical and philosophical requirements, for the purpose of directing the mass toward a behaviour that will result in the preservation and permanence of the (human) species’. This quest for survival, which remains central to contemporary political projects, raises a number of fundamental questions about space, law, security and ultimately survival, which remain pertinent today.

This chapter sets out the theoretical material underpinning the book, introducing concepts of sovereignty, space and nomos and demonstrating the way in which they can facilitate analysis of the Middle East. It does this by introducing the reader to the work of Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Peter Berger and Robert Cover to provide a theoretical framework. Drawing on concepts such as bare life and the state of exception, it argues that by looking at the relationship between rulers and ruled and the way in which this relationship plays out within – and across – space, we are better placed to understand political dynamics across the Middle East.

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Houses built on sand

Sovereignty, violence and revolution in the Middle East

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