Much of the literature on the 2009 demolition of Sulukule, one of Istanbul's largest and well-known Romani (Gypsy) neighborhoods, has focused on issues of history, heritage, macro-economic and political processes, such as urban development and "neoliberalism," or rights' discourses, such as the "Right to City" or Romani rights. This lecture suggests an approach to this important event that accounts for 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 lecture will argue 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, such as 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 lecture will point 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 work on urban assemblages in the social sciences, this lecture 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.
Join Danielle van Dobben Schoon, a doctoral candidate at the UA in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies, for the lecture. Her research focuses on the impact of urban renewal projects in Turkey on Romani culture and identity. Schoon 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.