Neoliberalization of Istanbul’s Nightlife: Beer or Champagne?


This article shows how the transformation of Istanbul’s entertainment industry and of Beyoğlu, Istanbul’s oldest, largest and the most diverse entertainment district, represents and reproduces spatial and economic divisions in the city. We argue that these differences also become compounded and intertwined with distinctions in consumption and taste. Taking a simultaneous look at the spatial, economic and symbolictransformations of the entertainment industry enables us to understand how and why these intense divisions emerge, and what kind of contestations, rationalizations and resistance strategies are at work in this transformation. A major contribution of this article is to document and discuss the political economy of the process of urban transformation in the city through the lens of the entertainment industry, providing an interesting case of ‘neoliberalism on the ground’. Examining the neoliberalization of nightlife in a relatively understudied context, Istanbul, also reveals that its segmentation and spatial inequality are not just determined by political economy but are also constitutive of it. By adding the concept of ‘image consumption’ and taste distinctions into the analysis, the article also uncovers the symbolic nature of the ongoing transformations. Finally, exploring Beyoğlu as a district in transition with persistent contestations contributes, in turn, to the right to the city debate.