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Cultural Politics of Urban Green Spaces: The Production and Reorganization of Istanbul’s Parks and Gardens

Basak Durgun, George Mason University, Mellon Fellow 2017–2018, Fall

I examine how urban social actors and institutions—state, real estate developers, social movements, and gardeners—invest in and govern Istanbul’s green spaces by conducting ethnographic research in Istanbul’s parks, market gardens, and community gardens; examining primary and secondary sources on the history of urbanization; and analyzing policy documents and publicity and marketing materials. At Dumbarton Oaks, I focused on situating my ethnographic research in the context of Istanbul’s redevelopment and landscape history. Specifically, I worked with accounts of planners and architects on modern urban redevelopment of Istanbul. I examined books by eighteenth- through early twentieth-century travelers (Evliya Celebi, Incicyan, Edmondo de Amicis, H. G. Dwight, Julia Pardoe) to understand how Istanbul’s green landscapes were depicted in the past. The accounts of Byzantine garden culture and agricultural traditions in the Geoponika were useful in contextualizing the current debates on heritage of urban food production in Istanbul. I also examined books on the history of food production in urban spaces and community gardening practices across different geographies. I completed one dissertation chapter, drafted a journal article, gave a talk for the Midday Dialogues, and presented at the annual meetings of the American Studies Association and Middle East Studies Association.