Sulukule as an Assemblage: Urban Renewal and Identity in a Dislocated Romani (Gypsy) Community in Istanbul


Fri, 04/25/2014 - 4:00pm to Sat, 06/25/2022 - 4:28am

Much of the literature on the 2009 demolition of Sulukule, one of Istanbul’s largest and most well-known Romani (Gypsy) neighborhoods, has focused on issues of history and heritage, macro-economic and political processes such as urban development and ‘neoliberalism,’ or rights discourses such as the ‘Right to the City’ or Romani Rights. This paper suggests an approach to this important event that accounts for the many people, things, and events that were brought together because of the demolition of Sulukule. Furthermore, it explores the lasting impacts of such assemblages on both Romani identity and the way Istanbul, as a city, is produced. This paper argues that, while the destructive actions of the bulldozers left a demolished neighborhood and dislocated community, much was also produced in this particular moment and space: new connections between Turkish and international rights organizations; emerging discourses and debates over Romani identity and citizenship; flows of resources, including funding and knowledge; and more. By tracing these assemblages, this paper points to the complexity of a particular event, suggesting that the whole of the event often exceeds the sum of its parts. Drawing from primary ethnographic data collected in Turkey and engaging with work on urban assemblages in the social sciences, this paper proposes that viewing Sulukule through the lens of assemblage theory offers insights both into the urban as a process, and the power relations that go into producing cities.

Danielle van Dobben Schoon is a PhD Candidate at the University of Arizona in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies. Her research focus is on the impact of urban renewal projects in Turkey on Romani (Gypsy) culture and identity. Danielle conducted 14 months of fieldwork in Turkey in 2011-2012, where she collected ethnographic data among a dislocated urban Romani population in Istanbul. She is currently writing her dissertation.





MENAS Colloquium Series
Friday, April 25, 2014
4.00pm in Marshall 490

Main colloquium page