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Istanbul and the Grassroots: urban transformation and urban social movements

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A discussion of Istanbul and the Grassroots has to begin and end with the protests around Gezi Park. What began as peaceful protest against the logging of trees in Gezi Park has become an existential fight for basic democratic and citizens rights in Turkey, based on a wide coalition of organizations and citizens. What at first seemed to be an uprising against the demolition of a park turned into widespread urban resistance in Istanbul’s various neighbourhoods and from there to the cities in Turkey.

Gezi Park is the culmination point of an ever increasing self-righteous politics of the AKP and its Prime Minister. Since 2002, urban transformation politics in Istanbul and most other Turkish cities have aimed to systematically synchronize all land and real estate markets, making it possible for national and international capital to invest in land and real estate. This was made possible by a broad set of measures including new legislation, the foundation of new institutions directly linked to the prime minister holding enormous powers, as well as extensive and dubious cooperation between public and private partners. The recent changes installed by property speculators and the state planners include gentrification and vast displacements of people as well as the erasure of spaces of collective memory.

The talk will focus on newly organized civil society actors in Istanbul reacting to current trends in urban development. In this climate local and national active civil society groups emerge and struggle to find a common voice against the unjust developments.

This talk is part of the Cambridge City Seminar at CRASSH series.

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