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The case of Gezi Park in Istanbul

Chiara de Cesari speaks about the case of the Gezi Park uprising.
A very good example of this kind of dynamics and the different uses of heritage by different opposing political forces is probably the story of Istanbul and Gezi Park. Because you have in Istanbul, in Turkey, you have a ruling party which is the AKP, the justice and development party, which is a populist Islamist party which has both banked on an Ottomanist ideology. And this idea of returning to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire, which has been inscribed in the urban landscape. Because the various AKP’s administrators have pushed for a progressive, heritagisation of cities like Istanbul to go back and rediscover the Ottoman past. Which was said to have been forgotten or silenced during Kemalism.
So you have the AKP administrators pushing for a revival of the Ottoman past, both in the urban space, in the urban fabric, and as a sort of general ideology of the party. And at the same time you have movements that go against Erdoğan’s authoritarianism by mobilising a different heritage. For example, the people in Gezi Park were first of all fighting to maintain a piece of urban heritage, which was the modernist Gezi Park, against Erdoğan’s plan to rebuild the Ottoman barracks. So there you have Erdoğan wanting to rebuild the Ottoman barracks against the protesters who started by saying,
we want this piece of urban heritage to stay: the park.

Chiara de Cesari discusses the case of the Gezi Park uprising in late spring 2013 to illustrate how heritage can be a factor in popular resistance.

In this interview, she explains how this protest movement denounced the heritage vision of the political party in power in Turkey (the AKP: Justice and Development Party). The Gezi Park movement emerged in opposition to a project aimed at wiping out a park to build a reconstitution of former Ottoman barracks.

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Cultural Heritage and the City

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