Streets are empty, shops are closed and people are stockpiling food and other essentials at home. There are loads of war analogies around. We are at war with an invisible enemy, they say. Some reassure people that we will beat that ‘enemy’. It feels like the end of the world for some since the pasta and toilet roll shelves at the supermarkets are empty. Perhaps watching too many post-apocalyptic movies is not good for anyone.
I am writing this from Britain, where the shelves are indeed empty. Not just for non-perishables that you can stockpile for months, but also the fresh food ones. The funny thing is, today it was announced that, since this storm has started, in three weeks, people have stocked food costing £1 billion. One-billion-pound-food stays at homes in Britain. Not to be touched, not to be eaten. 1 billion pounds.
It seems basic instincts take over. The survival mode is on. It is nasty and funny. We are facing a pandemic. It is a serious thing. The pandemic itself is no joke. But, our response to this calamity is like a joke. A pandemic, by definition, is something that you can not survive by yourself. By definition, it is like a tsunami. The only way to survive a pandemic is to respond it collectively andwith solidarity. Even a full-fledged Tory government decided to pay the wages, against every policy they have been imposing and preaching for years and years. But, we keep stockpiling food and toilet paper at home. We keep depriving our most vulnerable of reaching very essentials daily basis.
When this storm is over, we will all look back. We will look back to how we responded to this, how we acted. Don’t do things that you’d be ashamed of when this is all over. Remember, all is not fair in love and war, and this is neither love nor even war.
Guardian Cities recently released a documentary series called Divided Cities.
As our world grows more polarised, Divided Cities goes beyond Trump and Brexit to tell the story of five cities that reflect big global divisions in surprising and troubling ways.
The series provides a broader perspective on being divided in contemporary times. While it includes a classic example for a divided city through the case of Nicosia – “the UN-patrolled barricade that cleaves the island of Cyprus into a mostly Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north”, it also expands it through the case of Memphis – “One of the worst of the country’s so-called “food deserts” is in Memphis, Tennessee, where many neighbourhoods lack what seems a basic right in richer neighbourhoods – a supermarket.”
Although I agree with the Guardian editors that divisions, segregation and exclusion in our cities are rampant, divided cities is hardly a new concept. Cities have been perhaps divided since they have been first founded. Miletos, Jerico, Ur, … they have all produced and reproduced various divisions, segregations and exclusions within.
For our contemporary cities, being spatially divided is perhaps another embodiment of divisions such as class or race. Although in contemporary cities official racial segregation has not been like the case as it was in South Africa and redlining in the US, it continues in more indirect, or perhaps insidious, ways. Segregation by class, on the other hand, is normalised, accepted and happening full-fledged.
This normalised way of segregation and exclusion creates everyday discrimination against working classes. It becomes visible incident by incident when it reaches a truly outrageous stage. We have seen this in the case of a segregated playground where children living in social housing were not allowed to use the playground in a common area of residential development in London. Another example was the poor door incident, when the poor door practice – providing separate entrances for ‘market’ and ‘affordable’ housing residents in the same building – hit the headlines, it created such a reaction. However, these incidental reactions are hardly providing solutions for the main problem. Although these outrageous attempts might be taken under control, as it happened in London after the segregated playground incident, overall class-based segregation is normalised and accepted in contemporary cities. Otherwise, it would not be possible to displace hundreds of social housing residents to build more condos and so-called luxury housing developments in cities like London and Manchester.
Perhaps the solution lays behind to challenge the common-sense of our times that for the many it is good enough to live in good enough conditions and places, while the few are entitled to live in privileged places.
(Image Credit: The Guardian | Matt from London/Flickr)
“The revolution will not be televised” is a great song by Gil Scott-Heron. It questions the popular culture and its hegemonic form of everyday life and lifestyle. It urges people to step out of the bombardment of mass media icons, while portraying a picture of how spectacle unfolds in the 1970s.
Despite how hegemonic it sounds, popular culture has a weak spot or a soft belly. Ta daa, counter-hegemonic art and everyday life! Although it has a subtle and invasive nature, the pop culture is powerful as long as we let it appropriate everyday life and culture.
It is discursive warfare! And yesterday, in the middle of the night, we won a battle in it.
A group of rappers dropped a song in Turkey, which is much more powerful than any article written on what has been happening. The 15-minute song, Susamam (I can’t stay silent), is a summary of social issues, from environmental problems to domestic violence. Beyond portraying what has been happening in the country for some time, it is an outcry screaming “enough is enough”.
Within a day, it has reached out so many people in Turkey and abroad. The coverage is expanding as you read these sentences, with over a million viewings on Youtube only.
The song itself means many things. It is a protest against injustice and cruelty. It is self-criticism of a generation raised (and accused) of being apolitical. It is a counter-hegemonic move. It is an in-your-face act that no one can dare to ignore.
All in all, it shows that Turkey is a diverse country with strong embedded opposition and the future is not as bleak as it portrayed in many superficial analyses.
Developers in London have come under scrutiny for segregating people who live in social or affordable housing from residents who pay market rates. Prominent cases have included children from social housing being blocked from using a playground in a new development, and “poor doors” providing separate entrances for social housing residents.
Of course, segregation has long been a reality in cities around the world. For example, gated communities have been documented in the US cities since the 1970s, while racially segregated urban areas existed in South Africa under apartheid. Research by myself and other academics has shown that urban spaces which divide and exclude society’s poorer or more vulnerable citizens are still expanding rapidly, even replacing public provision of facilities and services – such as parks and playgrounds – in cities around the world.
Although these developments come with their own unique context and characteristics, they all have one thing in common: they effectively segregate city dwellers. By providing the sorts of facilities and services which would normally be run by public authorities, but reserving them exclusively for certain residents, such developments threaten the wider public’s access to green spaces, decent housing, playgrounds and even safe sewage systems.
Access to basic services, which was once considered to be the right of all citizens, is at risk of becoming a commodity. Privatisation may start with minor services such as the landscaping or upkeep of neighbourhoods: for example, the maintenance of some new-build estates in the UK are being left to developers in return for a service charge. This might seem insignificant, but it introduces an unregulated cost for the residents.
Privatising the provision of municipal services may be seen by some as a way for wealthier residents to enjoy a better standard of living – as in Hanoi. But in the worst cases, it puts in a paywall in front of fundamental services such as sewage disposal – as happened in Gurgaon. In other words, privatisation may start with insignificant services and expand to more fundamental ones, creating greater segregation and inequality in cities.
A divided city
My own research on branded housing projects in Turkey has highlighted the drastic consequences of the gradual expansion of exclusive services and facilities through segregated developments. These private housing developments – known for their extensive use of branding – have sprung up in Istanbul and other Turkish cities over the past two decades, since the government began to favour a more neoliberal approach.
By 2014, there were more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul alone. They vary in scale from a single high-rise building to developments aiming to accommodate more than 20,000 residents. Today, this development type can be seen in every city in Turkey, from small towns to the largest metropolitan areas.
When it comes to gated communities, recurrences of similar everyday life images and spatial representations in mass media form a discourse of the future everyday life. It depicts an ideal living environment that aligns neoliberalization with an idealization of private urban services, commodified forms of housing production, enclave living and exclusiveness, as well as the glorification of consumerism. This aligns with neoliberalism’s “pervasive effects on ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense way many of us interpret, live in, and understand the world” since the 1970s (Harvey, 2007, p. 3).
Understanding the role of this discourse in the imagining and producing of future everyday life in cities is critical for the production of urban space in the future and for the role of utopian thinking. In this respect, a critical investigation of the representation of future everyday life in housing developments would provide some insight on these issues. This particular case study focuses on mass media representations of the branded housing projects developed in Istanbul, which provide some clues.
To read the full short article on Public Seminar, click here.
Public Seminar is a critical platform for researchers on topics varying from contemporary politics to urban issues. The Imaginal Politics strand, edited by Chiara Bottici, Judith Butler, and Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, presents some brilliant works on imagination, spectacle and discourse:
A collaboration between University College London & the New School for Social Research, this Public Seminar platform provides a forum for the study of imagination and its function in contemporary political economy. Publishing original contributions from a broad range of critical theory, we will explore the futures that are being socially produced against the backdrop of financial capitalism, and the opportunities for mobilizing a radical imagination to resist political dystopia.
Click here to read a very interesting selection short articles, including one from me 🙂
The above slogan is from an advertisement for a branded housing project in Istanbul (Figure 1). Istanbul is changing, so do the other cities in Turkey. The change is unprecedented and controversial. The change follows the neoliberal restructuring in this country, and in this context, branded housing projects, as housing enclaves providing services and facilities exclusively for their residents, have been developed since the early 2000s. The branded housing projects are produced under certain brands and advertised extensively through mass media while implementing various branding techniques and strategies. Although their extensive development in turkey take attention, it should be noted that this type of development is far from being a unique and can be seen in many other contexts such as Latin American Countries, Singapore, India, and Nigeria. (Research Turkey)
I wrote a piece on framing housing in mass media and its discontents for Research Turkey.
“Ever wanted something more? Ever thought there could be a better way to live free from the shackles of the old tired world?” Here, Dr Bilge Serin talks us through the new world of commodified housing developments.
The above slogan is from an advertisement for a fictional housing development in the recent movie High-Rise. The movie is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel written in the 1970s. This fictional advertisement has many similarities with actual ones for so-called luxury housing developments, and presents a trend in the representation of housing futures in mass media – in the UK and in many other contexts.
Dr Bilge Serin
Representation of housing futures in mass media is an interesting issue. First of all, it is an intricate one involving various layers – from the representation of everyday life and future residents, to the construction of the housing project itself. Understanding this mass media…
Cities in Turkey, following the neoliberal restructuring of the country, have undergone a process of transformation in the last decade at a greater pace than experienced in previous periods. Through these processes, while new territories have been constructed, previous formations have been dismantled. While some of these constructed territories are abstract (e.g. Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics [NUTS] regions), some are tangible and physically defined such as branded housing enclaves.
Branded housing projects produce territories in the form of housing enclaves, which provide key services and facilities within their confines exclusively for project residents. By 2013, the number of branded housing projects located in Istanbul alone numbered 852 with the number of units provided by these projects amounting to 7.7% of the total housing stock the city (Sarıçayır 01/21/2014). This paper argues that these territories are co-produced by political society and civil society (in Gramscian terms): while political society regulates and directly contributes to the production of these territories through public actors involved in the branded housing projects, civil society contributes through the production of social consent for such developments.
The article discusses the role of political society and civil society in the production of branded housing projects by focusing on the case of Emlak Konut GYO (Real Estate Partnership) projects developed in Istanbul between 2003 and 2014. Firstly, the role of political society is discussed through the roles of TOKI (Housing Development Administration of Turkey) and Emlak Konut GYO as major public actors in the development of these territories; and secondly, the role of civil society is discussed through excavating the traces of production of social consent for branded housing projects in news articles published on Emlak Konut GYO projects between 2003 and 2014. The paper concludes that branded housing projects are emerging as spatial territories in contemporary Turkey as a result of hegemonic struggle through political society and civil society.
For the full article on European Journal of Turkish Studies, click here.
Bilge Serin, “The Promised Territories: The Production of Branded Housing Projects in Contemporary Turkey”, European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 23 | 2016, Online since 02 January 2017, Connection on 04 January 2017. URL: http://ejts.revues.org/5383
Inequalities in urban space have been on the rise since the 1970s with global neoliberal restructuring processes. This rise in inequality fosters segregation in urban space which has become observable through gated enclaves. Housing enclaves became a way of urban space production in many countries. Aligning with this global trend, since the early 2000s, following the 2001 economic crisis, a new version of housing enclaves has been emerging in Turkey- branded housing projects. The projects are produced under certain brands as urban spatial commodities by private developers or public private partnerships, and widely use various types of advertising like any other commodity on the market. The role of state institutions in the production of this commodified and marketed form of housing provision is illustrative of the practices of the neoliberal state. This article discusses branded housing projects in relation to the role of the developing neoliberal state in Turkey, firstly by giving an overview of the neoliberal urbanisation processes which Turkey has been going through; secondly by discussing the main characteristics of the projects; and thirdly by focusing on the role of public institutions in the production of such places, and criticizing the role of revenue-sharing model. The article thus questions the role of the neoliberal state in contemporary commodification of urban space in Turkey.
Serin B. (July, 2016), “A Questionable Robin Hood Story: Branded Housing Projects and Public-led Commodification of Urban Space ”, Vol. V, Issue 7, pp.06 – 23, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=12324)