Enno Maessen is a PhD Candidate at the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES). His main area of interests are modern Turkish history and urban history, with a particular focus on the relationship between history, space and identity.
The objective of my project is to provide insight in the relationship of identity, space, and history in the context of historical and spatial imaginings of Beyoğlu, a pivotal district in Istanbul. Beyoğlu is commonly represented as the cosmopolitan district par excellence in the Ottoman city, until the foundation of the Turkish Republic transformed it into a monocultural space.
After World War II, Istanbul was subjected to urban renewal projects that had a dramatic impact on the city’s urban fabric. Industrialization, moreover, resulted into a large inflow of labour migrants. Both developments had a strong impact on the cultural, social, demographic and spatial dimensions of Beyoğlu. Furthermore, since the 1980s a gradual process of gentrification transformed the district; it became the city’s most vital cultural zone and an influential spatial and historical symbol in the identity politics of sociocultural groups in Istanbul.
In the summer of 2013, Beyoğlu became the focal point of several weeks of nation-wide anti-government demonstrations, after the municipal government tried to destroy a park in order to rebuild Ottoman barracks. My analysis of the volatile developments and contestations in the area will yield new insight into the strategies these sociocultural groups use when imagining their ties or kinship with their urban district, Beyoğlu.