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Boundaries of the nation in the space of the urban: landscape and social memory in Istanbul

[journal article]

Mills, Amy

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Abstract Kuzguncuk, Istanbul, is known for its small-scale neighbourhood landscape and its close social ties, as well as its multiethnic history. The Armenian church and the mosque in Kuzguncuk have become symbolic ‘evidence’, in popular culture, of past multiethnic harmony. A Muslim elite is restoring Kuzguncuk's historic houses and its neighbourhood culture. The production of Kuzguncuk's landscape is sustained by two interrelated nostalgic narratives: a narrative of multicultural tolerance; and the narrative of the neighbourhood, the mahalle, as the urban space of belonging and familiarity. However, the ‘lie of the land’ is that this landscape obscures a contentious and traumatic minority history, and gentrification is creating new social divides. Kuzguncuk's minorities are gone. The traumas they experienced during mid-century Turkification, as well as the current divisions of class and origin in Kuzguncuk, are denied in the popular narrative. This denial attempts to hide tension embedded in the national narrative of belonging. This study of the power dynamics shaping Kuzguncuk's landscape examines the terms of belonging, of being a ‘Turk’, in Turkey, a debate which both redraws and contests the boundaries of the nation in the space of the urban.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 367-394
Journal Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006) 3
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)