Transforming Cities? Gentrification and Urban Contestation in Istanbul& Lon...

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Clement House 4.02

London School of Economics

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Transforming Cities? Gentrification and Urban Contestation in Istanbul and London

Speakers: Professor Loretta Lees (University of Leicester)

Dr. Bahar Sakizoglu (University of Leicester)

Ms. Clara Rivas Alonso (University of Leicester)

In discussion with Dr. Aysegul Can (Independent Researcher)

Chair: Dr. Julia King (LSE Cities)

Date: Wednesday 7 February 2018

Time: 18:30-20:30

Location: Clement House 4.02 , LSE, WC2B 4FJ.

We are pleased to announce the Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey) and LSE SU Turkish Society joint public panel titled “Transforming Cities? Gentrification and Urban Contestation in Istanbul and London” to be presented by Professor Loretta Lees (University of Leicester), Dr. Bahar Sakizoglu (University of Leicester), Dr. Aysegul Can (University of Leicester), and Ms. Clara Rivas Alonso (University of Leicester), and chaired by Dr. Julia King (LSE Cities). This event will take place on Wednesday 7 February 2018 at 18.30-20.30 in LSE Clement House room 4.02 There will be a Q&A after the presentations.

This event is free and open to all; however, a pre-registration is required via the link below. Our guests are advised to arrive at least 15 minutes before the advertised event time to ensure entry as a ticket does not guarantee entry. Please register via this link:

How does ‘urban regeneration’ (kentsel donusum in Turkish) projects reflect on social justice and access to public spaces? How does the process of ‘urban generation’ lead to cities gentrified according to class and ethnic lines? How do deprived neighborhoods subjected to gentrification resist the process? Our esteemed panelists will be addressing these questions by drawing on their expertise on Istanbul and London.


Professor Loretta Lees, Planetary Gentrification: Istanbul, London, and beyond

This talk begins with an outline of planetary gentrification (Lees, Shin and Lopez-Morals, 2016) before moving on to a description of gentrification in Istanbul. It then makes some comparisons with what is happening in London and elsewhere. Looking beyond Euro-America I question the ‘persistence of the Western ideology of urbanism (or rather anti-urbanism)(Glass, 1964: 27) which may not exist (or at least not in the same way) in non-Western contexts where, for example, issues of informality, state developmentalism and even the concept of neighbourhood itself, take on radically different meanings. I look at the position of Istanbul as both European but also Asian facing (where West meets East) and think about what this means for a ‘new’ comparative urbanism of gentrification (Lees, 2012).


Dr. Bahar Sakizoglu, The Symbolic Politics of Gentrification: The Case of Tarlabasi, Istanbul

This presentation focuses on the symbolic politics of gentrification, that is, the ways in which the process is framed and experienced. Based on the case study of Tarlabasi, an inner city historic neighborhood in Istanbul that is undergoing state-led gentrification, I will discuss how symbolic politics play out in this specific context. In Tarlabasi, urban authorities have managed the state-led gentrification process through 1) a divide and rule strategy: to differentiate the residents into various groups and foster territorial, ethnic and class stigmatization; 2) affective use of time: raising hopes, making the residents wait for a prolonged time, starting long-lasting juridical processes, pressuring them to move out etc. These two strategies undermined the potential for contestation as the residents were divided and exhausted by the process over time. While the neighborhood became unlivable in time, the process meant dispossession at many different levels as many residents lost their home, work, neighbors, neighborhood. In the final part of this presentation, using this case study, I open up a discussion about the dynamics of symbolic power as affixed to disadvantaged neighborhoods undergoing gentrification elsewhere.


Ms. Clara Rivas Alonso, Everyday Practices and Perceptions of Resistance to State-led Gentrification in a Militarized Neighbourhood in Istanbul

Okmeydanı, historically a working-class neighbourhood where many domestic migrants built their own informal houses (gecekondu), has faced for years now an urban renewal plan characteristic of the neoliberal urbanism promoted by the current AKP government. As it grew vertically in the 80s more (widely regarded as marginal) groups came to the area: Kurds, different groups of precarious workers and recently hundreds of Syrian families. At the same time, it is seen as a one of the hotbeds of leftist militant groups, Alevi and Kurdish identities. It was brought into the limelight after the death of local teenager Berkin Elvan at the hands of the police during the Gezi Park protests. Highly militarized, Okmeydanı is seen as the key to understanding the future of urban renewal projects and state-led gentrification in Turkey. In the talk I unpack the relationship between the everyday and the more visible acts of rebellion against gentrification in Okmeydani, looking at how perceptions of identity and belonging inform opinions about the urban renewal project and resistance, and looking at the role of the militarization of this space re. processes of implementation and resistance to the urban renewal project. Drawing on my ethnographic work, embedded in ‘the field’, and a highly heterogeneous group of informants who hold different (and sometimes unstable) alliances, positions and political perspectives I offer insights into resistance movements against neoliberal urbanism in the context of a militarized state in full autocratic mode.


Professor Loretta Lees is Chair in Human Geography at the University of Leicester. She is an urban geographer who is internationally known for her research on gentrification/urban regeneration, global urbanism, urban policy, urban public space, architecture and urban social theory. Since 2009 she has co-organised The Urban Salon: A London forum for architecture, cities and international urbanism (see She has published 12 books, most recently Planetary Gentrification (2016, Polity Press: Cambridge) and Global Gentrifications: uneven development and displacement (2015, Policy Press: Bristol) both with Hyun Shin and Ernesto Lopez-Morales. Watch her TEDxBrixton talk on gentrification on

Dr. Bahar Sakizlioglu is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Human Geography at the University of Leicester. Among her main research interests are accumulation by dispossession, gentrification, gender and displacement. She has published papers on the politics of gentrification and the displacement experiences of disadvantaged groups in gentrifying neighborhoods. Bahar is currently working on a H2020 Marie Curie Individual Research Grant comparing gender and gentrification in Istanbul and Amsterdam. Her project focusses on the mutual constitution of space and gender during the process of gentrification. Bahar is Turkish but now lives in Amsterdam.

Ms. Clara Rivas Alonso is a PhD candidate in Human Geography at the University of Leicester where she is writing up her PhD, entitled ‘Everyday Practices and Perceptions of Resistance Embedded in Processes of State-led Gentrification in Okmeydanı, Istanbul’. Originally from Spain she has worked and studied in London since 1999, where she completed a BA in Humanities and History at Birkbeck College, and an MA in Postcolonial Theory and Globalization at Goldsmiths College. She has lived in Istanbul, Addis Ababa and Abu Dhabi, taking these opportunities to reflect on, and when possible write about, constantly changing urban forms and the possibilities of urban life.

Dr. Aysegul Can received her PhD from University of Sheffield, Department of Urban Studies and Planning in 2016, with the thesis titled ‘The Relationship between Neighbourhood Renovation and Gentrification in A Historic Environment: The Example of Istanbul’. Her thesis focused on the renovation and regeneration projects, and also on the gentrification concept in the historic neighbourhoods of Istanbul. Exploring the complex and diverse relationship of economic change, housing markets, property and land ownership, the state leading to gentrification and why in certain cities gentrification occurs after renovation and regeneration projects are the main aspects of the present study. Dr. Can is now an independent researcher who focuses on the changing world economy, its effect on the housing market, and processes of urban regeneration and gentrification in the Global South and the Global North. She pays particular attention to social exclusion, inequality, homelessness, urban unrest, and territorial stigmatization in the urban space.

Dr. Julia King is a Research Fellow at LSE Cities and the coordinator for numerous research strands including 'Streets for All' a research project commissioned by the Greater London Authority and on-going work on urban governance in India. She currently teaches on the Cities Masters Programme at LSE, and runs a design studio at Central Saint Martins. Trained as an architect her research, design practice and teaching focus on sanitation and housing in the context of rapid urbanisation, inequitable infrastructure developments and urban micro-culture in the UK and India. Her work has been exhibited internationally including the 2016 Venice Architectural Biennial, the Southbank Centre and Somerset House. She was awarded a Royal Commission for 1851 grant (2017-2019) to develop design solutions cross cutting the sanitation chain from toilet to co-designed community infrastructure. She has won numerous awards for her work and practice including Emerging Woman Architect of the Year (2014), NLA Award (2016) and shortlisted for a Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award (2014) and Civic Trust Regional Award (2016). She has authored chapters in Home Economics (2016) and Infrastructure Space (2017) and co-authored a chapter in The SAGE Handbook of the 21st Century City (2017).

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