Divided Cities: Old and New

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)

UrbanitAs: Urban Animals as Other City-dwellers, Turkey Edition, Updated

UrbanitAnimals. We live side by side. We call them pests, vermins, #mprracoon, pets, …

As a common human behaviour, we exterminate the ones we afraid of, and do everything to keep the ones we like around. The only thing we cannot do is to accept them as city-dwellers, just like us humans.

Here I present you UrbanitAs: The Other City Dwellers aka Urban Animals. This is a photo series formed by the photos I took at different times and in several cities. I believe we are too late to acknowledge that we are just another species dwelling here on this planet. But, perhaps realising that we live side by side with a bunch of others even in the most human-made environment (aka cities) may change our perspective.

This edition is dedicated to UrbanitAs living in Turkey, “my lonely and beautiful country”.

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Çanakkale, 2018
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Istanbul, Beyoglu, 2019
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Gelibolu, 2019
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Istanbul, Moda, 2019
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Gelibolu, 2019

 

 

 

UrbanitAs: Urban Animals as Other City-dwellers, Glasgow Edition (Updated)

UrbanitAnimals. We live side by side. We call them pests, vermins, #mprracoon, pets, …

As a common human behaviour, we exterminate the ones we afraid of, and do everything to keep the ones we like around. The only thing we cannot do is to accept them as city-dwellers, just like us humans.

We are probably too late to acknowledge that we are just another species dwelling here on this planet. But, perhaps realising that we live side by side with a bunch of others, even in the most human-made environment (aka cities), may change our perspective.

This edition is dedicated to UrbanitAs living in the mighty city of Glasgow, and will be updated due course.

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Stories Behind: Mary Barbour and The Legendary Rent Strike

Some stories are never to be forgotten. After a hundred years, Mary Barbour’s statue now stands at Govan Cross.

I am starting a new series called “Stories Behind” telling the stories behind statues on the streets.

The series starts with a brave woman, Mary Barbour, whose statue was erected in Govan, Glasgow today at the International Women’s Day.

The early 1900s were the times of overcrowding and poor living conditions in Glasgow.  The workers were flocking into the cities to work at newly emerging industries and the landlords were benefiting of this. During the World War I the rent incresese reached up to 25 %, and the rent strikes were against this unacceptable rates.

Tenants across the city refused to pay increases imposed since the start of the war. So, their point is, this increases were unacceptable and unaffordable by many working class families.

Yet the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association, established before 1914 to fight for better housing conditions, soon galvanised growing discontent over the increases by calling for a city-wide rent strike … . Early support from the areas closest to the shipyards, such as Govan and Partick, where tens of thousands were crammed into poorly maintained tenements, soon spread across much of the city. By September 1915 around 20,000 households were on rent strike in Glasgow alone, and the protests were spreading to other parts of the west of Scotland and beyond. (theconservation)

Mary Barbour was a leading figure in the epic rent strike started in Glasgow in 1915. The strikers formed eviction resistance groups, mainly women, which were dubbed as “Mrs Barbour’s Army”. (commonspace)

This is how they organised the strike and prevent evictions:

one woman with a bell would sit in the tenement close, watching while the other women living in the tenement went on with their household duties. Whenever the Bailiff’s Officer appeared to evict a tenant, the woman in the passage immediately rang the bell, and the other women put down whatever work they were doing and hurried to where the alarm was being raised. They would hurl flour bombs and other missiles at the bailiff, forcing him to make a hasty retreat.  It is said they even pulled down his trousers to humiliate him! (Remember Mary Barbour)

The rent strike started in September and by November more than 25,000 working class families were refusing to pay rent. As a result of the strike, the Parliament passed the Rent Restriction Act. This froze rent at 1914 levels unless improvements had been made to the property.

The strikers’ demands had been met.

Remember Mary Barbour Campaign raised funds to errect a statue of Mary Barbour to commemorate her legacy. The statue now stands at Govan as a constant reminder of the legendary rent strike in Glasgow.

 

 

(Image credit: Top Eveningtimes / Bottom Personal Archive)

Great Return of Forsaken Books: An Unexpected Library at Ankara

Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills. For months, the garbage men gathered forsaken books. As word of the collection spread, residents also began donating books directly.
Initially, the books were only for employees and their families to borrow. But as the collection grew and interest spread throughout the community, the library was eventually opened to the public in September of last year.
Today, the library has over 6,000 books ranging from literature to nonfiction. There is also a popular kid’s section with comic books and an entire section for scientific research. Books in English and French are also available for bilingual visitors. (CNN)
These amazing people saved abandoned books from landfill and bestowed a public library. Read the full story here.
Great job! Thank you for giving recycling a different meaning!
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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.