51st Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "New Challenges for European Regions and Urban Areas in a Globalised World", 30 August - 3 September 2011, Barcelona, Spain
This study focuses on the hegemonic ascendancy of neoliberalism encountering contestations and social unrest in Istanbul (Turkey).Through the case of Sulukule (Istanbul), our aim is to illustrate how gentrification as a neoliberal instrument utilized by a conservative/Islamist local government intervene the urban space not only for economic purposes but also culturally. This study analyzes this process, which went through in Sulukule, a former low-income neighborhood, mainly inhabited by a Gypsy community, sustaining livelihoods through a historically created entertainment culture, which was not welcomed by the conservative political cadres. This study turns the attention to the dynamics generated at the interstices of economy, politics and society, and delivers a tale of resistance and contestation to the uneasy marriage between conservative Islamism and neoliberalism. The concept of gentrification/re-generation is very much employed and referred to the diffusion of neoliberal urban policies in the context of neighborhoods as it is also put forth in this study. The case of Sulukule is a representative case in the Turkish context, especially when the urban and metropolitan transformation of Istanbul is taken into account. The way neighborhoods transform and serve the interests of the market and the capital is similar to the historical functioning of capitalism. Thus, the globalization of gentrification arguments made in the literature should not surprise us given that it is a neoliberal strategy to extract value whenever and wherever possible, in the form of gentrification aiming to revalorize usually decayed spaces or slum areas. In general, what we gather from the literature on gentrification is seen as a quick solution, or in Slater's terms as a savior for cities, its content has been depoliticized, and proposed as a key strategy to approach complex urban problems. They are complex because they are creating both winners and losers, and the irony is that nobody is really keeping track of what is happening to communities who are dislocated because of disruptions through investment in their area. While gentrifiers are shown as the primary actor of this process, the "gentrified" (both the community and the physical space) constitute the other half.