A Semantic Approach to the City: Three Urban Symbols in Ankara
B. S. Ezgi Saritas
POLIS: VUB, UVT, MMU, UIAH; Middle East Technical University
Last modified: May 13, 2007
Presentation date: 06/12/2007 10:00 AM in ISCTE-II C201
The paper claims that the urban form is not neutral and it represents a discourse that could be deciphered through a reading of the signs in the city. This discourse shifts over the time and a reading of the signs shows us the power shifts. In the paper an analysis of urban semiotics in Ankara is provided through a reading of three urban symbols. Before making such an analysis, the question “what is symbol?” is tried to be explained in the light of Charles S. Pierce’s “semeiotic”. The general framework drawn by Peirce is applied to urban space through Roland Barthes’ analysis of urban semiology. Making Ankara capital of Republic of Turkey in 1923 was part of the hegemonic project of the new elite of the republic giving the city an important symbolic value. The three symbols are studied in that context. One can read multiple histories of the city and the shift of power politically as well as spatially through the three symbols that are situated along the main north-south axis of the city. One common characteristic of all the symbols is that, even though they signify different things for different social groups in the city, they are all abandoned by all groups today and for the dwellers of Ankara they do not signify the meaning that they are intended to by the local authorities. This shows that meaning is contested not only by the authorities but also by the users of the city.