Stories Behind: The Statue of Tombili and the Cats of Istanbul

Tombili was one of the many street cats in Istanbul. A statue was erected to honour her and this is the story behind it.

Cities in Turkey, and Istanbul as the largest one, is famous with cats roaming free. Although the cats live o streets, it is hard to call them strays or feral cats. They co-habit with people for centuries. They are part of urban culture in the cities in Turkey. Recently an award-winning documentary on the lives of cats in Istanbul was in cinemas.

Individuls and sometimes municipalities take care of the needs of these beloved animal neighbours by feeding them and taking case of their health issues. For winter times, some individuals, NGOs and some municipalities locate cat houses on streets to help them to survive in colder days.

Tombili was a beloved cat citizen of Istanbul and roamed free on her street for almost 10 years. She became an internet celebrity when his famous pose is posted on the net. Tombili means chubby in Turkish and she is called as Tombili by her fellow humans for obvious reasons. A statue was erected on her favorite spot for her memory after her death.

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The Famous Photo of Tombili (Tombili Facebook Page)

People loved her so much. She became a mascot for the street with her laid back lifestyle. After her death, people started a petition to honour her and collected more than 17000 signature, which let them to erect the statue in October 2016. I am not quite sure if it is the only street cat statue in the world, but it took an attention from the media all over the world.

 

 

Unfortnately, not everyone values the friendship between Tombili and fellow humans. The statue was stolen in November in the same year, almost in a month. It sparked an outrage in the public and on the internet. Social media outlets were flooded with anger from people condemning the culprits.

Kadikoy municipality, the council which erected the statue twitted “It is stolen” with a crying cat emoji:

The thieves could not be indifferent to this massive outcry, and returned the statue to its place within a week. The statue is now on Ziverbey Street, Kadikoy, where it belongs. Tombili is still in her neighbours’ lives with this statue.

The Tombili statue on Ziverbey Street (Image Credit: Tombili Facebook Page)

And this is the story of Tombili and her legacy.

Tombili (Image Credit: Anadolu Kedisi / Huffington Post)

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Doing Architectural Research Socio-political Perspectives on Theories, Methodologies and Praxis

Since the 1970s, cities have become core areas for neoliberal restructuring strategies, policies and processes (Peck et al., 2009). Brenner et al. (2010) stress that different neoliberalization practices share the ambition “to intensify commodification in all realms of social life” (Aalbers 2013, 1054). In addition, prominent critical scholars including Lefebvre, Harvey and Castells agree upon the fact that “capitalist cities are not only arenas in which commodification occurs; they are themselves intensively commodified” (Brenner et al., 2009, 178).

The talk methodologically asked the question:

How can we investigate this multi-layered phenomenon which includes dynamics of production and commodification of space as well as everyday life ?

The talk was given in scope of The Centre for Urban Conflicts Research Workshop exploring and questioning what constitutes architectural research, specifically research from socio-political perspectives.

Commodifying Urban Space: The Clash of Promises and Everyday Life

Cities have been experiencing neoliberal urbanisation processes since the 1970s globally and with a greater pace since the early 2000s. As part of these, housing enclaves –segregated and under-controlled living areas- have been expanding with different versions across the countries. Via this practice, the commodification of urban space has been deepening while also transforming the everyday life of the citizens. The talk focuses on the case of branded housing projects in Istanbul, Turkey as a particular version of housing enclaves and discusses their recent emergence in this locality regarding the projects’ development processes, discursive formation and spatial practices.

The talk was given as part of Open Talk Series of the Space+Place+Society Research Network at Heriot-Watt University (3 May 2017).

Landscapes of Music in Istanbul: A Cultural Politics of Place and Exclusion

An amazing work by Alex Papadopoulos and Asli Duru about Istanbul and music landscape: Landscapes of Music in Istanbul

Everyday articulations of music, place, urban politics, and inclusion/exclusion are powerfully present in Istanbul. This volume analyses landscapes of music, community, and exclusion across a century and a half. An interdisciplinary group of scholars and artists presents four case studies: the rembetika, the music of the Asiks, the Zakir/Alevi tradition, and hip-hop, in Beyoglu, Üsküdar, the gentrifying Sulukule neighbourhood, and across the metropolis.

 

 

“No Water or Gas, If You Don’t Pay Your Monthly Fee.” Says the Management

 

In my PhD research, I criticised private provision of housing enclaves in Istanbul and argued that this practice gives too much authority in the hands of private management companies and passivate the residents of these areas.

Usually, municipalities deliver urban infrastructure and services, and citizens pay tax in return. In this practice, private management companies are responsible for delivering urban infrastructure including water, sewage and gas networks, landscaping and roadworks within the confines of the projects. In return, the residents have to pay a monthly fee to these companies. The problem is that while municipalities are subject to many controls for their practice, taxation, and spending, these companies are like just any private company operating in the market.

I have come across this recent case, for example. It is very striking. Some families living in a luxury housing enclave were unable to pay the total amount of their fees, but they did pay their bills for water and gas. The private management company’s response was brutal: The water meters of the houses were removed and gas was cut in the middle of January.

The residents took this to the court and get access to water and gas again after having a court order!

In the news article, Cesim Parlak, an expert lawyer on criminal law, argues that expansion of this practice of shared use of water and heating in large housing estates, the estate managements became hegemonic in this practice. According to Parlak, the private management companies acts like car parking mafia. The carpark mafia in Turkey appropriate some places and demand parking fees from the ones who park their cars in those areas, although they have no right to the land they appropriate. So, Parlak says that according to law, estate managements do not have a call for giving or not giving this service to the residents.

Well, apparently, what the management company did was illegal in this case. But, the question is who is controlling what the private management companies are doing in more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul? The answer is a big fat no one.

(Image credit: Yeni Projeler)

Istanbul Urban Layers

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Istanbul Urban Database is an excellent work and amazing database for urban researchers and activist alike.

an accessible, interactive mapping platform for historians, architects, city planners and other researchers to examine and contribute to the collective memory of Istanbul. This project is a sustainable platform that blends a wide range of historical data, and is the most comprehensive online archive of Istanbul’s urban history. (Istanbul Urban Database)

It is an ongoing project developed by Nil Tuzcu, a researcher based at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Istanbul Urban Database currently has 8 categories: base maps, transportation, photos, major roads, spaces of everyday life, housing, master plans, and growth: Base maps include aerial photos, Jacques Pervititch insurance maps which were drawn between 1921 and 1946, and several Ottoman era maps provided by the Harvard Map Collection.  (Istanbul Urban Database)

 A massive thank you to Nil for developing such a platform for urbanist and urban historians.

The Promised Territories: The Production of Branded Housing Projects in Contemporary Turkey

 

Abstract

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.

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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

A Questionable Robin Hood Story: Branded Housing Projects and Public-led Commodification of Urban Space

Abstract

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[1] 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.

For full article on Research Turkey, click here

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)

Şaibeli Bir Robin Hood Hikâyesi: Markalı Konut Projeleri ve Kent Alanlarının Kamu Eliyle Metalaştırılması

Özet

Kentsel alandaki eşitsizlikler 1970’lerde küresel neoliberal yeniden yapılanma sürecinin başlamasından bu yana artagelmiştir. Eşitsizlikteki bu artış etrafı çevrili yaşam alanlarıyla (anklav) birlikte görünür hale gelen kentsel alanın ayrışmasını hızlandırmaktadır. Konut anklavları birçok ülkede kentsel alanın bir üretim yolu haline gelmiştir. Bu küresel trendle birlikte 2000’li yılların başlarından itibaren, özellikle 2001 krizi sonrası Türkiye’de konut anklavlarının yeni bir versiyonu olan ‘markalı konut projeleri’ ortaya çıkmıştır Bu projeler özel firmalar ya da kamu-özel işbirliği ile belli markalar altında geliştirilip piyasadaki diğer ürünler gibi çeşitli pazarlama yöntemlerini kullanmaktadır. Devlet kurumlarının bu metalaştırılan ve pazarlanan konut projelerinin üretimindeki rolü neoliberal devletin uygulamalarını anlama açısından açıklayıcıdır. Bu makale, öncelikle Türkiye’de meydana gelen neoliberal kentleşme sürecinin genel değerlendirmesini yaparak, ikinci olarak projelerin ana özelliklerini tartışarak, son olarak da kamu kurumlarının bu tür projelerin oluşumundaki rolüne odaklanarak ve gelir paylaşımı modelini eleştirerek markalı konut projelerini Türkiye’de neoliberal devletin gelişmesindeki rolü çerçevesinde incelemektedir. Çalışma, böylelikle neoliberal devletin Türkiye’deki kentsel alanın metalaşmasındaki rolünü irdelemektedir.

Research Turkey’de yayınlanan tam metin için tıklayınız

Makaleyi şu şekilde referans vererek kullanabilirsiniz:

Serin B. (Temmuz, 2016), “Şaibeli Bir Robin Hood Hikâyesi: Markalı Konut Projeleri ve Kent Alanlarının Kamu Eliyle Metalaştırılması”, Cilt V, Sayı 7, s.06 – 19, Türkiye Politika ve Araştırma Merkezi (Research Turkey), Londra: Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/?p=12324&lang=tr)

Video

KEDi – @ Sheffield Doc Fest

“a documentary about what it’s like to be a Cat in Istanbul”

 

KEDi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard. KEDi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people’s lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can. Cats and their kittens bring joy and purpose to those they choose, giving people an opportunity to reflect on life and their place in it. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to ourselves.

This week screening @ Sheffield Doc Fest if you happen to be around!