Accepted Paper:

Istanbul through the marginal looking glass of Miniatürk  


Jeremy Walton (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I reflect on the ambivalent image of Istanbul curated by Miniatürk, a theme park within the city itself. I argue that the park's peripheral location within the city belies its aspiration to encompass the whole of Istanbul's built environment and history.

Paper long abstract:

Miniatürk, an Istanbul theme park that first opened in 2003, is a curious study in urban marginality and the aesthetics of miniaturization. The park is located in a peripheral working class neighborhood in European Istanbul that is a far remove from the splendor and bustle of the city's famous, central districts and attractions. Yet Miniatürk's aspiration to encompass the whole of Istanbul's built environment belies its marginal placement within the city. The theme park consists of 128 replicas of famous Ottoman and Turkish sites, monuments, and structures, each rendered at a scale of 1/25 of their original size. Approximately half of these replicas depict buildings and sites within Istanbul itself, including the city's most famous monuments: Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Süleymaniye Mosque, and the Maiden Tower. The section of the park that features Istanbul's monuments is also a synecdoche of the city, complete with an ersatz Bosporus. In this paper, I reflect on both the marginal location of Miniatürk within Istanbul and the comprehensive vision of the city that the park curates. In pursuit of my first aim, I draw inspiration from Walter Benjamin's famous meditations on urban walking to narrate an actual foot journey from one of Istanbul's centers, Taksim Square, to the marginal place of Miniatürk. Following this, I engage Claude Levi-Strauss' and Susan Stewart's reflections on miniaturization to analyze how Miniatürk expresses a new, radically decontextualized and fetishized image of the city and its history.

Panel P090
Urban margins: new perspectives on the city