First International Conference of Young Urban Researchers (FICYUrb)
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Serkan Yolacan

On the Edge of "Urban Transformation": Politics of Resistance and Political Subjectivity

Serkan Yolacan
Sabanci University - Cultural Studies

     Full text: Not available
     Last modified: March 8, 2007
     Presentation date: 06/11/2007 4:30 PM in ISCTE-II C202
     (View Schedule)

Turkey is witnessing an intensification of residential re-development particularly in metropolitan cities through various housing projects. Planned and initiated largely by Housing Development Administration and local governments, this social enterprise is said to be a response both to severe housing shortages and the urge to increase Turkey’s share in the global market. While this popularizes ‘modern’ and ‘secure’ apartment living, it results in the destruction of squatter settlements (gecekondu) and the subsequent reallocation of people; which set up the stage for processes of intensified contestation on and of urban space. My paper looks at this contest from the vantage point of political subjectivity.

Based on ethnographic data gathered in and about a particular gecekondu neighborhood in Istanbul, my paper scrutinizes the constitution of political subjectivities of the inhabitants of that neighborhood against the backdrop of an ongoing eviction process. Drawing mainly on the literature that looks at urban transformation from the viewpoint of the “victimized,” I argue that eviction constitutes a space where the individual not only mourns for the upcoming loss but also expresses his/her spatial belonging via a public performance; and I suggest that by looking at how this public performance is generated, represented and remembered we can understand political subjectivity.

Looking at multiple yet related discourses, agents and institutions threading through the moment of eviction and therefore shaping the political subjectivity of the “victimized” will provide us with a sense of the degree to which this political subjectivity subverts as well as reproduces official discourses on modernization, welfare, backwardness, and criminality; all of which enable the state to legitimize a process of top-down large-scale urban transformation in the first place.

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