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Towards an Urban Alternative for Kuwait: Protests and Public Participation

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With the launch of its oil industry in 1946 and the advent of modern planning in 1950, Kuwait underwent a rapid, state-led modernization process that resulted in the complete transformation of its urban landscape. With this process, Kuwait's inhabitants lost what French urban theorist Henri Lefebvre refers to as a 'right to the city'. As the population was suburbanized en masse, the city was transformed into a landscape of state power and ceased to be a centre of political discussion and debate as it had been prior to oil. At the same time, with state planning the public lost the right to participate in the production of a city based on their particular needs and desires. It has only been in recent years – more than half a century after the advent of oil – that a quest for a restored centrality has started to emerge among various social forces in Kuwait. This paper focuses on two parallel though significantly different groups that are simultaneously demanding a restoration of a right to the city: political opposition forces, who have brought public protest back into the heart of the city centre (after fifty years) in the public park now known as Irada Square, and a civil society group called the Arabana Project that has been advocating for greater public participation in urban planning and development for the first time in Kuwait's history.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-03-01

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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