‘Problem Spaces’ and Struggles Over the Right to the City: Challenges of Living Differentially in a Gentrifying Istanbul Neighborhood

Abstract

Focusing on everyday life and the dynamics of contestations between very different groups thrown together in dangerous proximity in a neighborhood of Istanbul called Tophane, this article contributes to debates on urban transformation, political aspects of gentrification and the right to the city, with a focus on how to live differentially. Amidst rising political tensions and polarization in Turkey, competing economic interests, gentrification pressures and/or ultimate clashes over norms and values have fueled these contestations, which have degenerated into violent encounters. Calling for a re‐evaluation of ‘the right to the city’, we argue that, unless the concept of right to the city is complemented by a commitment to live differentially—that is, by a right to difference—mediating and addressing these contestations will be difficult. Whether clashes over the right to the city and everyday encounters can lead to a new politics committed to resisting urban transformation that pushes the boundaries of urban citizenship, or whether these uncomfortable encounters will continue to escalate, with one group claiming hegemony over space until the neighborhood is finally and fully gentrified, remains very uncertain. But it will, ultimately, be the litmus test of the country’s democracy and inclusive citizenship.

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