Urban Colonialism and Buffer Zones: Gray Spaces in Hebron and Nicosia

  • Ilan Amit Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • Oren Yiftachel Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Keywords: Buffer zones, Urban colonialism, Gray space, Planning, Militarization


This paper examines the effects of creating buffer zones in cities controlled by contemporary colonial regimes by comparing two such zones in Hebron, Palestine, and Nicosia, Cyprus. We argue that buffer zones in occupied and colonized cities constitute markers of “gray spaces” where law is suspended under (putatively) temporary colonial sovereignty. Their formation formalizes a process of ‘darkening’ these uncontrolled unplanned spaces, turning temporary into indefinite and even permanent. As such, buffer zones are significant tools in simultaneously formalizing spatial demarcation while creating informal spaces, causing the emergence of layered ethnic urban citizenship. We suggest that in both Hebron and Nicosia, this spatial process has deepened both colonial controls, and the nature of ethnic conflict. We propose referring to those colonized cities not as exceptions, but rather as windows into the planning influence of military and security logics in shaping urban landscapes and the formation of gray spaces.


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