Provocations of the built environment: animating cities in Turkey as Kemalist

Christopher Houston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The production of space always has a political dimension, from the design of buildings to the way public places, their ritual use and their users condition the performance of identities within them. This paper is an exploration of urban design, space and political subjectivity in cities in Turkey, using Ankara and Istanbul to illustrate two different but complementary strategies animating cities in Turkey as Kemalist. Although the Ottoman urban heritage of the two cities is very different, their de-Ottomanization by the Turkish Republic has been pursued in a uniform manner. The paper argues that one recent aspect of urban politics, the formation of a Kurdish diaspora in cities in Turkey, is best understood not only in relation to the general nation-building project of the Turkish Republic but more particularly in this case through the built environment that provokes it. Here the built environment encompasses not only the physical design of new spaces, buildings, forms and objects but also the fashioning of space via nationalist practice, performance and symbols. In this way the paper seeks to partially politicize phenomenological approaches to the city by re-connecting inhabitants' use and experience of space to State power as constituted through its orchestration of space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-119
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number1 SPEC. ISS.
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Built environment
  • Islam
  • Kurdish diaspora
  • Nationalism
  • Spatial politics


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