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The Critical Arabic Urban Lexicon (CAUL)

The Critical Arabic Urban Lexicon (CAUL) is part of a wider project of knowledge dissemination developed by the Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research (CLUSTER) to interrogate the discursive knowledge gap between the Middle East and North Africa and the centers of knowledge production in the ‘First World.’ CAUL aims to address the interdisciplinary nature of urban studies and the proliferation of “borrowed” terms from social sciences and humanities, including political science, geography, cultural studies, etc. (ex. citizenship, mapping. agency). Further, CAUL critically engages the regional variations of key terms in different translation traditions exploring the Levantine, Egyptian, and North African versions of the same term (ex. public space, urbanism). In doing so, CAUL attempts to contest prevalent media and official discourse by offering, and thus legitimating alternative definitions (ex. slums, squatters, ‘ashwa’iyat).

As it stands, the platform distils findings from discussions that took place in Cairo in December 2016, Amman in July/ October 2017 and Beirut in October 2017. The Critical Arabic Urban Lexicon online platform has been developed by CLUSTER in partnership with the Center for Spatial Research, Columbia University in the city of New York, and builds on workshops undertaken in collaboration with the Center for Translation Studies, American University of Cairo; Public Works, Beirut; Sijal Institute for Language and Culture, Amman; and Studio-X, Amman.