Diverging concerns about the transformation of the city center: the Taksim renewal project in Istanbul
(Salzburger Landesinstitut für Volkskunde)
Paper short abstract:
The paper examines the dichotomy of neoliberal politics and civic engagement by discussing the urban renewal project of Taksim area in Istanbul. Neoliberal projects are not always opposed by local interests and the stigmatization of residents as “victims” of neoliberal politics is often misleading.
Paper long abstract:
Several urban studies on Istanbul (Dinçer 2011; Enlil 2011; Lovering et al. 2011) highlight Turkey's neoliberal politics in the transformation of urban space. Thereby local residents and actors are often stigmatized as "victims" of these implementations without looking more closely at spatial practices engaged in these processes. Portrayed as urban protest against neoliberal practices and the destruction of a park, the Gezi Park protests in summer 2013 in Istanbul has to be situated in the wider context of the renewal of Taksim area (including Gezi Park, Tarlabaşı neighborhood and Istiklal pedestrian area) to understand how this urban space has been contested and negotiated for some time before the protests. In Tarlabaşı residents had formed a neighborhood association to protect their property, while others occupied dilapidated houses. On Istiklal street local activists protested the restoration of historic building and the Taksim Solidarity Platform was collecting signatures against the announced renewal of Taksim Square. However, the implementation of the projects not only faced resistance by local groups, but was accepted or compromised by many residents as an improvement of urban infrastructure.
The paper will explore the wider transformation of this area to reveal the various ways in which local actors participated in discourses that were fought out over the reconstruction of this urban space. This allows to elaborate on the composition of actors involved in the (re)construction of urban space, exemplifying that these are not only conflictive, but sometimes even overlapping.
Urban space under (re)construction: affective and economic geographies under rapid social change