Uprising Cities: Between Resilience and Resistance

Dr Sara Fregonese

Sara Fregonese is Birmingham Fellow at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies and the Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security. Her research lies in political and urban geography and is concerned with the impact of geopolitics and security on urban life. Her work deals with civil war and urban warfare, radicalization, social cohesion and uprising. Her main empirical focus is Lebanon. She publishes in leading international journals including Political Geography and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.

Sara’s research is multi-lingual and trans-disciplinary: it draws on theories in critical geopolitics and critical sovereignty, and at the same time advances current debates in urban geopolitics, radicalisation and cohesion, urban resilience and spaces of protest.

Her research is structured along three strands:

  1. The links between physical urban environments and social contestation (Fregonese 2009). This includes research on the ways sovereignty is implemented in cities, with a focus on the role of non-state actors (Fregonese 2012). Findings on this subject will appear in the volume War and the city: Urban geopolitics in Lebanon, in preparation with IB Tauris. 
  2. The urban implications of social polarization and the impact of urban design on social cohesion (Fregonese and Brand 2009). Considering how urban communities go from coexistence to violence and vice-versa, and pays attention to unequal experiences of coexistence (Fregonese 2012). It focuses on the role that specific urban infrastructure and planning policies have in influencing multi-cultural processes. On this topic, she is co-author of the forthcoming book The radical’s city. Urban environment, polarisation, cohesion
  3. Cities, transition, resilience: focusing on urban and everyday aspects of security and resilience in the wake of socio-political uprising, regime transition, rioting and protest in the Middle East and elsewhere. This strand considers uprising and protest as key to understand contemporary urban security. It aims to develop understandings of urban security that do not alienate communities from authorities, while guaranteeing the democratic right to protest. On this topic, Sara led the British Academy-funded workshop City/State/Resistance: spaces of protest in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.


2011 and 2012 saw the inception and establishment of practices of protest and uprising in cities all around the Mediterranean and the spreading of protest to cities worldwide. Such events involve not only urban communities, but also international actors, geopolitical agendas, and discourses of security especially in the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe - an area, as stated in 2011 by resident of the Union for the Mediterranean Youssef Amrani, where “[a] new context has created new opportunities and has placed the Mediterranean at the core of the international agenda.”

The project studies the impact of uprising and protest on everyday urban life. Besides producing academic knowledge, it benefits policy makers, community actors, government stakeholders, and built environment professionals with evidence-based research on the implications of post-uprising transition.
With cities becoming physical and symbolic terrains of political and socio-economic transition, new understandings of and responses to risk, securitisation, and community behaviour need developing. The project researches the everyday urban implications of uprising; in so doing, it tackles the challenge of shaping sustainable urban policies that do not alienate communities from state authorities, while guaranteeing the democratic right to peaceful dissent.

The research asks:

- How do protest and uprising shape official security responses (discourses, practices, policies) in cities?
- How do urban communities respond and adapt to political and socio-economic transition and risk caused by uprising and protest?
- Do official and community responses trust, reflect and respect each other’s objectives?

The project has an international comparative perspective to explore relations between uprising/protest, security, and different views of resilience in a number of cities that have recently experienced different kinds of uprising.
If you are interested in receiving further information on current projects, then please email Dr Sara Fregonese at s.fregonese@bham.ac.uk  

Forthcoming project publications:

Fregonese, S. (forthcoming, 2014) War and the city: Urban geopolitics in Lebanon. IB Tauris.

Brand, R. and Fregonese, S. (in press, 2013) The radical’s city. Urban environment, polarisation, cohesion. Ashgate.


Select project publications:




Fregonese, S. (2013) Mediterranean geographies of protest. European Urban and Regional Studies 20 (1): 109-114.




Fregonese, S. (2012) "Beyond the ‘weak state’: hybrid sovereignties in Beirut" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30(4): 655-674. 30(4): 655-674.




Fregonese, S. (2012) “Urban geopolitics, 8 years on. Accounting for hybridity, the everyday, and peace”. Geography Compass 6 (5):290-303.



Fregonese, S. (2011) City/State/Resistance. Spaces of protest in the Middle East and Mediterranean. Workshop podcast.



Fregonese, S. (2011) Beyond the domino. Transnational (in)security and the 2011 protests. Environment and Planning D blog.