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Inside and Outside the Law

Negotiated Being and Urban Jouissance in the Streets of Beirut

Ghassan Hage

Keywords: chaos; horizontal sociality; jouissance; libidinality; negotiated being; public spaces; urban planning

In this article I begin by noting a certain jouissance in Beiruti urban culture that co-exists with an ongoing history of intercommunal conflict and the failure of centralized planning. I then examine the irreverent celebration of this ‘outside-the-law’ culture by a group of middle-class immigrants who have returned to Beirut to enjoy its free spaces. I argue that these outside-the-law spaces are characterized by a particular form of sociality that I define as ‘negotiated being’. It is a dyadic and horizontal relation typified by a permanent state of relating and being attuned to the other without involving the law as a mediating third party. This makes for a more particularist and libidinal sociality that explains the forms of jouissance emanating from it.

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