"Istanbul and the Grassroots" has been published in April 2013. Download here


Urban Transformation , Neoliberal Urban Politics , Istanbul , Civil Society , Grassroots , Gecekondu


This dissertation investigates civil society actors in the field of urban development in Istanbul, struggling for their "right to the city". This relatively new multi-actor environment is characterised by an increasing dynamic that is introduced by a heavy-handed urban transformation agenda following the logic of a globalising economy and a state facilitating this development, systematically preferring stronger urban actors to socio-economically more vulnerable population groups furthering both social and spatial segregation.
The empirical analysis applies methods of qualitative social research. In a case study four different neighbourhoods and their specific neighbourhood organisation landscapes have been monitored and analysed regarding their ability and ways for mobilisation, their resilience towards inner and outer threats, as well as to the aspect of how they influence local politics and policies.
A major outcome of the research is an extensive inventory of relevant civil society actors at play in urban development as well as a profound analysis of the applied strategies and tactics of both civil society and project implementers in order to promote their respective interests.
The two most important civil society actors identified in the case study are the growing number of neighbourhood associations in affected neighbourhoods and newly evolving social movements or civil platforms.
Concerning their way of mobilisation, the monitored organisations develop mainly in response to an urban transformation project underway. It turns out that this reflexive formation makes it difficult to maintain a high degree of mobilisation over the usually long implementation period of urban transformation projects. Because of this, first associations try to develop their own vision for their neighbourhood and thus try to achieve a more sustainable and constructive mobilisation.
Civil platforms usually emerge out of more general political or ethical considerations and are usually run by academics and professionals from the field. These organisations reach usually longer term mobilisation of smaller groups of likeminded people and often much broader attention. Yet they are chronically underfinanced and therefore lack sustainability of resources. In recent times, greater networks of these and other civil society actors emerge and raise more and more public attention. The challenge here is to find a common narrative, common values, that embraces an as wide as possible range of organisations without getting stuck in disputes over political, religious or cultural affiliations.