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).
CAUL has developed a working glossary of terms relevant to the context and urban transformations of the Arabic speaking world. Terms such as spatial practice, territoriality, and gentrification are but a few of the terms and concepts which have been masked by an asymmetry within official media translations in the Arabic language; and which have been ill-defined, and at times entirely reconstituted with great implication, within public discourse.
The ongoing Critical Arabic Urban Lexicon translation workshop series builds upon grounded professional practices in the region, aiming to bring together linguists and translation experts with academics and practitioners in the fields of arts, architecture, urbanism and the social sciences. 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.