The Transformation of Istanbul’s Urban Commons

520istanbul_bosphorusIn a recent article, David Harvey reminds us of what Henri Lefebvre has called the ‘right to the city’ on behalf of its inhabitants. As a social space in which interactions, practices, and production takes place, the modern metropolis forms an important aspect of the collective commons. In fact, the privatization of this commons is one of the most lucrative enterprises for state and private parties pushing the ongoing process of enclosure in the contemporary world. The current debates surrounding the proposed third bridge over the Bosphorus Straight in Istanbul, as well as wild new urban projects concerning the development of the ‘New Istanbul’—particularly the recent announcement to construct a second Bosphorus itself—dubbed Kanal (Canal) Istanbul: these projects have been undertaken through the cooperation of corporate, state, and university leaders around the world, and illustrate how large segments of the sprawling Istanbul and surrounding areas now constitute part of the new enclosures. This article discusses the struggle over these plans and draws upon the secondary literature concerning the contemporary forms of the global commons. Additionally, the numerous primary sources translated from Turkish (newspaper stories, publications from various local activist organizations, and author-conducted interviews) have been, up until now, largely unknown to wider audiences outside of Turkey. As a city whose recent history represents the creation of a monstrous metropolis through the vicious process of enclosure, Istanbul continues to be an urban battleground.Irmak Ertuna-Howison and Jeffrey D. Howison.


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