22 February Dr Ebru Soytemel

We will either be rich or lose our homes!:

Urban rent speculation, uncertainty, and strategic unknowns in housing market policies in Istanbul. 

Ebru Soytemel, Lecturer in Sociology, Sociology &Policy Department at Aston University.  e.soytemel@aston.ac.uk  

In recent years, scholars of urban research have expressed their concerns about the emergence and consolidation of a new urban post-political and post democratic condition where urban politics is reduced to the administration and management of processes through ‘the consensual socio-scientific knowledges’ (Swyngedouw 2009). The making of the neoliberal city not only provides a stage for these new post political processes, but it also involves policy making which keeps ‘uncomfortable knowledge at bay’ (Rayner, 2012). Policy makers exclude certain knowledge from policy implementation, thus creating uncertainties in order to deal with possible tensions. Defined as ‘the systematic social construction of ignorance’, this process helps institutions and policy makers to manage and control resources, justify policy decisions, and ‘deny liability in the aftermath of crisis’ (Rayner 2012; Smithson, 1989; McGoey 2012:553). At the same time, those whose lives are affected by these policies try to find different solutions to develop counter actions of resistance, or in some cases try to ‘mobilize unknowns’ (strategic ignorance) (McGoey 2012) so as to acquire a way around the increasingly complicated everyday problems. Often overlooked, urban policies/interventions affecting housing rights in cities provide important examples on which to examine such policy making processes and to see how different groups develop strategies in everyday life to resist various uncertainties in the neoliberal restructuring of cities.    

This paper examines the Fikirtepe Urban Transformation Project (FUTP) in Istanbul –the so-called ‘Manhattan Istanbul’ Project – as a case study of how different policies and strategies of public/private institutions/companies create uncertainties in housing markets, of how they manage projects and succeed in speculative gains through the social construction of ignorance and exclusion of uncomfortable knowledge. This paper will explore how local dwellers (both tenants and homeowners) develop counter actions to resist or to adapt to the consequences of these neoliberal place making processes.  It will discuss the role and functioning of ‘mobilizing unknowns’ and ‘strategic ignorance’ for different groups, as well as scrutinize how different ‘tactics’ and ‘strategies’ are developed by different actors during the neoliberalization of the city space.