Lucy EJ Thirkell* - University of Cambridge
Leisure and business life in a conflict zone may raise eyebrows, but the availability of social, consumerist urban space for Gaza's upper classes is no less than an international-political controversy. Anything other than abject misery is difficult to explain in the everyday life of a non-state.
While also experiencing mass deconstruction of urban space by means of warfare, there is also construction of new and renovated buildings in the city that illuminate the both the reality and falsity of elite spaces in situations of conflict.
This paper argues that city spaces of recreation and domesticity for the upper classes offer us the chance to see Gaza as something more bizarre than "the world's largest open-air prison" - as a whole society, including an elite, enclosed. What is more, the spaces of the elite indicate to what extent the surrounding conflict has become normal: witnessing warfare is part of daily life.
Looking at the restaurants, cafes, resorts and large houses, I ask whether the spaces of Gaza's elite are a symbol of defiance or a facade attempting to mask the surrounding violence. This paper probes reality and surrealism in concrete and its uses for Gaza's elite, tracing the uncertain distinction between life by illusion and resistance by banality.