“lifting dead soil off our bodies”: Reclaiming public space in Gezi Park through resistance

Open Access
Author:
Elbeleidy, Hallah
Graduate Program:
Geography
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
None
Committee Members:
  • Petra Tschakert, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • Gezi Park
  • Taksim Square
  • Istanbul
  • Gezi Resistance
  • the right to the city
  • urban political ecology
  • feminist political ecology
Abstract:
In May 2013, environmental activists in Istanbul occupied Gezi Park to contest its planned conversion from a public park to a mixed-use space of consumption. Subsequently, people of diverse ages and political and religious backgrounds amassed in Taksim Square to support the activists and to voice dissent against a wide range of concerns. The Gezi Resistance brought together a complex and diverse set of emotions felt by inhabitants and is representative of these varied grievances. Current scholarship attempts to ascribe meaning to and define implications of the Gezi Resistance for inhabitants, the city, and the nation. The purpose of this study was to examine inhabitants’ relations to the park space and to determine its effects on their motivation to participate in the Gezi Resistance. Twenty-six semi-structured interviews with residents of Istanbul were conducted to determine their changing visitation to and usage patterns of Gezi Park, awareness of and initial sentiment to the Pedestrianization Project, and narratives of the material and symbolic meanings of Gezi Park. The Gezi Park case study is indicative of inhabitants’ desires to use public spaces as they choose and to participate in deciding on how these spaces are altered. Increased visitations to and usage changes of Gezi Park after the resistance illustrate inhabitants’ demands to claim their ‘right to the city’. The park evoked a complex set of emotions in inhabitants, motivating them to participate in the resistance. Outcomes contribute to a growing body of knowledge on activism that is theoretically informed in hopes of influencing public and civil initiatives dedicated to shaping more just urban environments.