The Energy of Revolts in Arab Cities: The Case of Jordan and Tunisia
The Energy of Revolts in Arab Cities: The Case of Jordan and Tunisia / Eric Verdeil, Built Environment, Vol. 40, n° 1, March 2014 , pp. 128-139
Energy has become a new urban public issue in Arab cities and, hence, the trigger for new claims, mobilizations, and even revolts or riots. This article proposes another approach to energy politics. In my view, a set of transformations in energy circuits are directly involved in the ‘urbanization’ of energy issues. By such a phrase, I mean different processes that reframe and rescale energy issues, usually national and international ones, at the level of the city. Energy reliability and affordability are new claims in the political arena in many Arab cities. Based on earlier research in Tunisia and Jordan, the article examines how policies of electrification in Arab cities have created a new metabolism associated with new power relations, specifically enhancing State legitimacy through symbolic and economic means. But the neoliberal turn in electricity policies, coupled with fossil fuel price pressures, is undoing this pact. Claims for affordable prices and effective power supply have been fostered in the context of the current uprisings. Grid-embedded resistance practices by ordinary people (customers or workers), which are analyzed in this article, put new light on the vulnerability of urban electricity circuits.