Comparative Research on Urban Political Conflict: Policy Amidst Polarization

  • Bollens S
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Based on field research in politically contested cities in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, this paper pro- vides a methodological guide to analyzing urban policy in jurisdictions with multiethnic conflict. It seeks to stimulate the intellectual development of comparative conflict studies by illuminating the issues involved in cross-national urban re- search in troubled settings of ethnic conflict and fragmentation. It describes why scholars must be clear in articulating the types of cities under study and how a specific analytic “lens” can be used to gain access to wider issues of urban govern- ance and policymaking in divided societies. Key urban ethnic conditions - territoriality/control over land, distribution of economic benefits and costs, access to policy-making, and group identity - are described in terms of how they can facili- tate or impede the movement toward peaceful co-existence. The paper positions the “city” not as a unitary actor but one that is internally differentiated and externally linked. A comparative analytic framework (“scaffolding”) for cross-national research on urban conflict is then presented. Finally, empirical vignettes from eight contested cities in Spain, the former Yugoslavia, Israel/Palestine, South Africa, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland are provided to highlight how theoretical and conceptual understandings can make sense of case study findings and provide footing for theoretical advances and further case study selection as a multi-city research program continues.

Author-supplied keywords

  • comparative case study
  • ethnic
  • racial divisions
  • research methodology
  • urban conflict
  • urban planning

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  • Scott a. Bollens

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