TF4 Cultural Identities and Visions: Battlefield of civilizations or possibilities of co-existence ?

Competing or even combatting visions of cultural identity prevail as paradigms of justification for different renewal/protection strategies on the historical peninsula of Istanbul. Sulukule, as the oldest Roma settlement in town going back to middle ages, with settled, landowner population, the uncontested Walhalla of Roma identity in Turkey is positioned just at the intersection of these. The 'westernized-enlightened' middle classes claim the historical peninsula area within the poor urban core back as part of the world historical heritage. The changing character of Istanbul into a post industrial metropolis puts urban renewal through cultural tourism on the agenda and helps legitimizing these efforts on the metropolitan level. However that enlightened gentrification not only lacks popular backup in the area, it is also underrepresented in local politics on municipality level.The re-islamisation movement since 80s, reinvented a traditon of an Ottoman "golden age", mainly imagining a city of purity. Historical peninsula is regarded as a primary field of reconquista for the revivalists. As the post-islamism recently turned neoliberal, it adapted a hard core, state backed gentrification strategy to benefit the countryside origin rising new middle classes they represent. The Sulukule settlement itself, located just at the Roman City Walls, and next door to a valuable set of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman relics of monumental and civil architecture; Zeyrek, a 'romantic' medieval neighbourhood at the heart of the peninsula, a hard battlefield of 2 'reconquista' movements as well as of one 'silent takeover'; Suleymaniye, a former high end area around an urban landmark, today making a living by solid waste recycling; as well as Ahirkapi, the showcase of an alternative, 'enlightened-liberal' path for a Roma settlement, just next door to the very touristic highlights in town; they all represent different facettes of the 'local' on the historical peninsula, each with a partly or not yet realized potenial for gentrifcaton and will be visited in the context of the work of this taskforce. The tensions and ongoing fighting as well as a series of necessary compromises and changing coalitions between the three tendencies makes the game most interesting. Taskforces' investigations will cover all three millieus.

Group coordinator: Orhan Esen (social and economic historian, author and tourguide)

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