Counterpublics in Saudi Shopping Centres, Beach Resorts, and Gated Communities


  • Stefan Maneval Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg



Saudi Arabia, Public Space, Counterpublics, Privatization, Gated Communities, Urban Development


In recent decades, Saudi Arabia, much like other places around the world, has witnessed a trend towards the privatization and securitization of urban space. In this paper I argue that although indisputably exclusive, gated communities and other types of privatized public spaces in Saudi Arabia enable practices which, outside the walls of such developments, are strictly banned. In a country known for its strict moral standards and lack of civil liberties, these architectures permit the formation of “counterpublics.” Offering alternative perspectives on gender relationships, modesty, and nudity, such “counterpublics” challenge prevailing notions of what public and private mean.


Stefan Maneval, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

holds a PhD in Islamic Studies from Freie Universität Berlin. This article is informed by research for his PhD thesis on public and private spaces in twentieth-century Jeddah. His thesis won the 2016 dissertation prize of the German Association of Middle Eastern Studies (DAVO) and will be published as a book by UCL Press in autumn 2019. Stefan Maneval is currently based in Halle (Saale), where he investigates contemporary Lebanese Theology of Religions. For his research, he received funds from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Max Weber Foundation, and the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).





Maneval, S. „Counterpublics in Saudi Shopping Centres, Beach Resorts, and Gated Communities“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 12, Nr. 1, Juni 2019, S. 76-86, doi:10.17192/meta.2019.12.7930.