An Unusual Clique of City‐Makers: Social Networks in the Production of a Neighborhood in Beirut (1950–75)


This article documents the early development of an informal settlement in Beirut (Lebanon) through the trajectories of the developers who participated in its production, looking specifically at the role that social networks played in the process. Drawing primarily on the methodological approach developed by Pierre Bourdieu, my analysis reveals that social networks play a central role as conduits for developers to access the necessary housing ingredients and market securities they need to conduct their businesses. Social networks also function as accumulated capital, enabling developers to strengthen their hold over the production of housing in the neighborhood. My analysis also indicates that while some of these networks were inherited, many were built through patient investments deployed by these developers within the changing limitations of the micro (neighborhood) and macro (city‐wide) contexts. Finally, the changing distribution of social networks in this neighborhood determined when and how different social agents were able to participate as developers in the production and exchange of housing. These findings are important since they generate new insights into how (informal land) markets work, the practices of developers in this type of neighborhood, as well as the yet unstudied mechanisms of informal housing production in the Lebanese context.