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Figuring It Out: Inhabiting Urban Transformation in Tarlabaşı, Istanbul
thesisposted on 01.08.2021, 00:00 authored by Alize Arican
Taking Istanbul’s Tarlabaşı neighborhood as a prism, this dissertation asserts care and time as political tools for racialized communities facing displacement. This project draws on 16 months of engaged ethnographic fieldwork, oral histories, and archival research. In 2006, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party enacted a new “urban transformation” law, allowing the expropriation of property in neighborhoods chosen as sites of urban transformation projects. The first project under this law, located in Tarlabaşı, proposed to demolish a portion of the buildings in the neighborhood and erect an upscale residential and business complex in their place. Since then, many Tarlabaşı residents—mostly Kurds, Roma, transgender women, West African and Central Asian migrants, and Syrian refugees—have been evicted to make room for the project, which is still under construction. For the rest, the possibility of future displacement looms large. Rather than assuming that this uncertainty produces subjugation, I argue that residents take the future as a political object they can shape, rather than something for which to passively wait. They rework the limitations that broader political projects putatively impose on urban life in the making. I found that in an uncertain present, residents enact a set of everyday care practices to assert themselves as part of the future. Following them, I call these practices “figuring it out” (in Turkish, halletmek): using the delayed durations of urban transformation, they cultivate relationships with politicians and builders to curtail the project’s expansion, devise ways to retain their property and access government services, and maintain community by hosting public events. My work allows an understanding of care as a practice that takes shape through future-oriented calculations and actions. It shows that through the open-endedness of the present, residents reconfigure a future that assumes their displacement.