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New book 2021

Bordered Cities and Divided Societies is a provocative, moving, and poetic encounter with the hearts and minds of individuals living in nine cities of conflict, violence, and healing—Jerusalem, Belfast, Johannesburg, Nicosia, Sarajevo, Mostar, Barcelona, Bilbao, and Beirut. Based on research spanning 25 years, including 360 interviews and over two and a half years of in-country field research, this innovative work employs a series of concise reflective narrative essays, grouped into four thematic sections, to provide a humanistic, “on-the-ground” understanding of divided cities, conflict, and peacemaking. Incorporating both scholarly analyses based on empirical research and introspective essays, Bollens digs underneath grand narratives of conflict to illuminate the complexities and paradoxes of living amid nationalistic political strife and the challenges of planning and policymaking in divided societies. Richly illustrated, the book includes informative synopses about the cities that provide access for general readers while extensive connections to recent literature enhance the book’s research value to scholars.

"Bollens presents a highly radical new approach to analysing processes of establishing borders and generating cleavages. Drawing heavily on emotional aspects in his interviews, he convincingly radicalizes the methodological armature of ethnographic analyses." —Jürgen Mackert, Universität Potsdam

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace: Jerusalem and Belfast Since 1994

Routledge 2018

TRAJECTORIES is based on 7 months of extensive field research and over 120 new interviews. Investigates the evolution of these two contentious cities during twenty years of both political stasis and change.

Creating peace for a city's intimate enemies is harder than making war.

This book is about the trajectories of urban conflict and peace in the politically polarized cities of Jerusalem and Belfast since 1994, how sometimes there has been hopeful change while at other times debilitating stasis and regression. Based on extensive research, fieldwork, and interviews, Scott Bollens shows how seeking peace in these cities is shaped by the interaction of city-based actors and national elites, and that it is not just a political process, but a social and spatial one that takes place problematically over an extended period. He intertwines academic precision with ethnography and personal narrative to illuminate the complex political and emotional kaleidoscopes of these polarized cities. With hostility and competition among groups defined by ethnic, religious, and nationalistic identity on the increase across the world, this timely investigation contributes to our understanding of today's fractured cities and nations.

I am weary of writing more about this important topic--how people do or do not get along in urban settings--from an academic distance. That is why I am at this point and why I am writing this different type of book.

Social science academic tradition asserts that you are not supposed to know who I am.

Out in the streets and gathering places of these cities, the intense and continuing drama of the human soul both overwhelms and connects, putting me in my rightful, miniaturized sense of self

See two minute video on Bollens' research focus:

Among the small number of planning scholars who have devoted their scholarly careers to the study of divided cities, Bollens stands out as one of the most dedicated, thoughtful and insightful. Many of Bollens’s conclusions have been embraced by planning theorists and the scholarly peacemaking world.

Diane E. Davis, Harvard University, in JAPR, 30:3, 2013.

Praise for City and Soul

Bollens has boldly produced a postmodern narrative…. concerned with the psychological dimensions of living in these tormented locales… this is a highly personalized account of Bollens’s own reflections… a heart-wrenching book…(of)… self-reflection and soul-searching in divided cities.

Diane E. Davis, Harvard University, in JAPR, 30:3, 2013.


Author in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1999

City and Soul (2012)

In this unique book Scott Bollens combines personal narrative with academic analysis in telling the story of inflammatory nationalistic and ethnic conflict in nine cities ? Jerusalem, Beirut, Belfast, Johannesburg, Nicosia, Sarajevo, Mostar, Bilbao, and Barcelona. Reporting on 17 years of research and over 240 interviews with political leaders, planners, architects, community representatives, and academics, he blends personal reflections, reportage from a wealth of original interviews, and presentation of hard data in a multidimensional and interdisciplinary exploration of these urban environments of damage, trauma, healing, and repair.

CITY AND SOUL reveals what it is like living and working in these cities, going inside the head of the researcher. This approach extends the reader?s understanding of these places and connects more intimately with the lived urban experience. Bollens observes that a city disabled by nationalistic strife looks like a callous landscape of securitized space, divisions and wounds, frozen in time and in place. Yet, the soul in these cities perseveres.

Written for general readers and academic specialists alike, City and Soul integrates facts, opinions, photographs, and observations in original ways in order to illuminate the substantial challenges of living in, and governing, polarized and unsettled cities.


PART A: POLARIZED CITIES (interested in reading Part A? -- see below)

1. Introduction

2. Scholarship with an ?I?

3. Soul in the City: Epic Cultures and Urban Fault?lines


4. Sarajevo, Bosnia?Herzegovina ?Urbicide? and Dayton

5. Johannesburg, South Africa: ?Swimming Olympic Style after Years of Drowning?

6. Belfast, Northern Ireland: A Peace? Not Envisioned

7. Nicosia, Cyprus: Surmounting Walls, not Politics

8. Basque Country, Spain: Moving From Etxea to Euskal Hiria

9. Mostar, Bosnia?Herzegovina: The City as War Spoils

10. Barcelona, Spain: An Inclusive Nationalism?

11. Jerusalem, Israel and West Bank: Narrowing the Grounds for Peace

12. Beirut, Lebanon: City in an Indeterminate State, Part I

13. Beirut, Lebanon: City in an Indeterminate State, Part II


14. Comparing Across Conflicts

15. Cities and National Peace

September 2011 | 288 pages | Paperback: 978?0?415?77923?4

Interested in reading an excerpt from CITY AND SOUL?

Blog on peacebuilding in the city

Scott Bollens is Professor of Urban Planning at the University of California, Irvine, where he holds the Warmington Chair in Peace and International Cooperation. His other books are Cities, Nationalism, and Democratization (2007), On Narrow Ground (2000), and Urban Peace-Building in Divided Societies (1999).

Print interview with Bollens 2012

Bollens books and articles on urban conflict 

Healing and dealing with conflict-- Scott on radio

Conflict Healing website--

December 5, 2011 listing (click near bottom of dated entry to hear interview).

Building peace in divided cities-- Scott on video

Building Peace in Divided Cities Presentation

Walls that Divide: Out There and In Here 

Soldier in "pigeon roost", Corniche el Mazraa, Beirut. 2010.

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