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Space, Cities, and Urban Transformations

Panel XII-23, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, November 5 at 11:00 am

Panel Description
  • Space as a category of analysis was first discovered by scholars in post-colonial comparative literature scholarship and then made its way to social science, with the significant work of Henry Lefebvre on the social production of space and recently by the David Harvey Marxist theory on the right to the city. The guiding question of this paper is what it means to think about the social production of space from the global south while working with different scholarship that is produced in Western academia. To engage with this question, I choose to navigate the social production of space in Morocco, specifically in the marginalized city of Agadir in southern Morocco. This choice is not arbitrary, but a result of different historical consequences. The first has to do with the neoliberal turn that occurred in Morocco beginning in 1998, the year when Mohamed VI became the king. The second is the earthquake that took place in 1961, which ultimately shattered the whole city. I argue that to understand the social production of space and city management in southern Morocco, it is necessary to focus on three aspects of the problem: First, it is necessary to engage with the historical documents about the city, namely documents that are showing how Moroccan state apparatus managed the city before and after the earthquake. Second, given that the city management and social production of space in everyday life have much in common with the people producing that space in their everyday life, and this is why I plan to investigate how street vendors produce their space by occupying public space in Agadir. Last, this paper will look at the dichotomies that both state policies and informal economic activities affect the access to housing in Agadir. To navigate all these three elements of the after-mentioned problematic, I intend to use a mixed methodology. That is why I intend to use an archival method by searching Moroccan archives, especially les archives du Maroc in Rabat, and les archive du Sud in Agadir. Additionally, I will conduct a participant observation among the street vendors to observe how they produce their social space, and finally, the third methodology will be a centered interview with some street vendors to look at their stories regarding access to housing in the city. This paper will try to fill the gap in urban anthropology, especially in marginalized milieus such as southern Morocco.
  • In 2019, the Egyptian ministry of housing estimated that 40% of Cairo’s population lived in informally-built units and 75% of urban areas across Egypt were unplanned. Informal housing supply used to primarily cater to low-income groups (el-Kadi,2009: 84,29). However, this pattern changed since the early 1990s, with private developers undertaking larger-scale housing supply in middle-class neighborhoods building units without permit and selling them to final consumers (Shawkat,2021). Taking Egypt’s middle-class informal housing market as a case study, this article raises the question: how socio-economic actors shape the market fields in which they operate? I build on Bourdieu’s “habitus” but also depart from it. I argue in ongoing market-based capitalist transformations, such as Egypt’s since infitah, a few socio-economic actors have been endowed with kinds of habitus: dispositions and access to tangible and intangible capital from past relations and experiences, that enabled them to become simultaneously market-actors and market-makers. In doing so, they shaped and sometimes created from scratch, the market rather than just got incorporated into an already demarcated field. These socio-economic actors became entrepreneurs in a double-sense: economic entrepreneurs seizing or creating opportunities for lucrative gain by exchange and; institutional entrepreneurs who formulate, instill and observe practical rules that govern the field in which they operate (Biggart & Beamish, 2003:448). Using Luhmann’s system theory, these market-makers are first- and second-order actors at one and the same time (2010:185). The collapse of both actions into one is a sharp theoretical break with all the strategic-action assumptions in the neoclassical institutionalism that derive from rational choice (Bourdieu, 2005:193; Callon,1996:22). It also critiques the overstated role of states in MENA in shaping their economies despite rampant informality and weak regulatory capacities, which ignores the agency of socio-economic actors (Adly, 2020). This article aims at developing a new conceptual framing for understanding the social dynamics behind bottom-up processes of market-making in MENA. I attempt to engage critically with a broad body of literature in economic sociology, economic anthropology and new institutionalism, while examining empirically a local process of market-making for informal middle-class housing in a Cairo neighborhood using relational ethnography. The local market is treated as a microcosm for the process of market-making or as a paradigmatic case using Carlo Ginzburg’s expression, with the hope of conceptual generalization into other contexts of MENA and beyond. I aim to bridge regional studies with the bigger body of economic sociology and political economy literature.
  • Cultural spaces are important in the Gulf due to their uniqueness and nostalgy they bring to the collective memory. The importance of these spaces can be a good venue for networking between governments and ordinary people, which push for more cross-border cooperation and threats. This paper focuses on camel races, festivals, and markets in the Gulf, mainly Qatar and Saudi Arabia to understand how tribal venues have become a source of mobilisation and political competition. The paper focuses on how traditional spaces related to camels can be a source of mobilisation during political crisis and state-level competition. Process tracing and case study will be in place to refer the development of camel industry in the Gulf, which gives a chance to regional regimes to penetrate these venues for political gains. The plan is to understand how Saudi regime used cultural spaces (camels) to influence transnational tribes in Qatar to build leverage against their regime. The paper will draw on information that the researcher already collected during fieldwork in Qatar in 2021. The paper will be divided into three parts: placing the research within the ontological security literature, importance of camels for tribes and states, and the Gulf crisis and use of camel owners for mobilisation. Historically, Saudi Arabia has been a regional centre for camels and tribes have long had a connection to Saudi because they can get help managing camels, Saudi lands have great pastures, and the Saudi government offer support to owners. During the crisis, Saudi Arabia used its influence over camel spaces to incorporate tribes into Saudi sphere of influence. Qatar responded to this by trying to increase incentives for Qatari camel owners to move their camels to Qatar. Here, the Saudi goal was not only about using its leverage over Qatari owners but extended to creating dominance in camel industry. The Saudi government has established the International Camel Organisation where owners get benefits for their membership. The ICO shows that the Saudi efforts to establish international and regional dominance over this cultural space. In contrast, Qatar has not yet become a member and has also invested to have its own camel market and festival. To understand these efforts to dominate the camel industry for political gains, the paper will combine the ontological security with the literature of transnational identity-building and cultural spaces. The main contribution is understanding the state-level competition over informal spaces.
  • This comparative research investigates the value of refugees’ capital in two neighborhoods of Istanbul: Beyoglu and Kadikoy. As the major metropolis of Turkey, which is the largest refugee-hosting country in the world with nearly 4 million refugees, Istanbul hosts more than 500.000 Syrian refugees. 10% of them have university degrees, while 8% established their own businesses in Istanbul, yet 51% of the overall refugee population with university degrees reported working underqualified jobs. As the value of the locals' financial, social, and cultural capital deteriorates, the refugees are increasingly perceived as burdens by the locals. This understanding is intensified by the rampant exclusionary political discourse. In these circumstances, local-level strategies are essential for the facilitation of peaceful coexistence in the absence of state-level integration policies. Therefore, I dismantle the interactions between the high-capital refugees (borrowing from Bourdieu’s definition I conceptualize it here as the ones with university degrees and/or professions/skills, and/or financial capital derived either in the home or host country) and the components of inclusion and exclusion in these urban districts with a special focus to labor market integration. These neighborhoods are economic, social, and cultural centers of Istanbul’s Asian and European sides and preferred districts by the high-capital refugees. Yet, they are distinct in the demographic compositions of local and refugee populations in terms of density, visibility, political orientation, labor market sectors, municipality size, municipal approaches to refugees, and location. With an intensive 7-month (February-August 2023) fieldwork consisting of in-depth interviews and participant observations with 50 high-capital refugees, civil society, local authorities in the neighborhoods, and informal chats with locals, I investigate 1. How do high-capital Syrian refugees navigate the polity and society in Kadikoy and Beyoglu?; 2. What local-level dynamics interact with the refugees’ capital to determine refugees’ experiences in the labor market, local and refugee social and economic networks, and interactions with the authorities?; 3. How do the differences in the refugee governance in these distinct districts impact the value of refugees’ capital? I believe that the produced knowledge contributes to the urban migration literature by shedding light on how individual, local, and national level dynamics interact to determine the inclusion and exclusion points in a Middle Eastern city for forcibly migrated high-capital refugees. The findings will band together to tailor an inclusive urban citizenship model that values the refugees’ capital in the Middle Eastern cities, where the quality of locals’ life has also regressed.
  • Turning your back on Istanbul’s historic old city to cross towards the opposite shore over the Galata Bridge, it appears that all paths and roads lead uphill to Istiklal Caddesi. The avenue’s centuries-long life continues to tell its open and ongoing story about urban vitality and its defiant public-ness. Here, daring and sublime individual and collective freedoms are seen and felt, realistically symbolizing “independence,” for which the avenue was renamed in 1923, at the start of the Turkish Republic (Kinzer: 2001). Purposely revisiting Istiklal and its surrounding context since the early 2000’s, as a form of long-view, urban architectural fieldwork, a series of socio-spatial premises and questions emerged about the continued inhabiting of its public street space/s (Author: 2020; 2014). In this part of Beyoğlu, the co-existence of locals and tourists showcase a particular set of conditions seen through the transforming architectural street scene. Influenced are felt by the demographic diversity that reflects national, international and global aspirations (Keyder: 1999; Tekin; 2017). Yet, the phenomenon of Istiklal’s daily continual draw of thousands of people also represents a dependency on conscious and unconscious impulses that might be explained through layers and filters of psychological sensitivities, as well as memory-laden perceptions (Jacks: 2006; de Certeau: 1984). The focus of this paper is on questions and impacts prompted by the urban mélange of cultural attitudes, activities, behaviors and interactions, asking: How has Istiklal Caddesi remained pivotal in Istanbul, and also become symbolic of the country? In what ways will its diversity continue or disappear? Three subsections will illustrate the observations put forth about the extreme draw, and freedoms found on the avenue. First, a brief history of Galata and Pera highlight the avenue formation and connect it to late Ottoman district reformation, and the resulting jumble of architectural growth we see today (Batur: 2007; Gül: 2009). Second, Istiklal’s influential context within the city as a public site for collective commemoration or protest—past and present (Fidan: 2019; Haksöz: 2015), expresses choices or nuanced motivations for different visiting populations. Third, a phenomenal approach aids speculation on why the history and spaces of protest create desire to take part in the hyper crowd. The conclusion postulates how all of these conditions create a zeitgeist of spatial non-conformity and free-expression. Research supports heterogeneous forms of open-ness will continue even amidst the appearance of socio-political or global homogeneity (Kartal: 2021; Adanalı: 2011).