Imagination as Appropriation: Student Riots and the (Re)Claiming of Public Space.

Bülent Batuman

Go to article

Batuman, B. (1). Imagination as Appropriation. Space and Culture, 6(3), 261–275.

appropriation of space , Kizilay Square , politics of urban space , representations of space

Analyzing the spatial genealogy of the student riots in May 1960 in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, this article investigates the relation between space and identity politics. Besides the social practices it contains, the “publicness” of space is also marked by the meanings and values attributed to the space by various social actors. The political participation of the social groups in public sphere becomes possible through spatial appropriation, which does not only mean the practical occupation of space but also the appropriation of the image of the (public) space. In the context of Ankara, the student riots transform Kizilay Square, which had been the prestigious center of a wealthy neighborhood, into a site of contesting spatial imageries and social identities.

Main finding
Through historical analysis, the author identified four representations of spaces within Kizilay Square: 1) the symbolic center of the nation-state, 2) the site of the Yenisehir bourgeoisie, 3) a site of a livable, modern life for squatters, and 4) the emergence of the Democratic Party in 1950 through which private investment helped transform Kizilay into the Central Business District of Ankara. Migration into the city spurred a necessary secondary economy, driven by immigrants, that fostered a new "publicness" which included close encounters of different classes, in everyday public life, and thus the multiple productions of representational space they each created. In short, the everyday encounters between the bourgeoisie and working class were, in effect, political events whose tension came to a head when the Democratic Party's policies created rising inflation, shortages of goods, and black-market sales - yet the Party remained in power due to manipulating the electoral system. It was out of this historical moment and the restrictive Press Laws that anti-government protests ignited in Kizilay Square and eventual student protests, that lasted for weeks, concretized out of the student’s appropriation of streets and the spaces after-work crowds. The author found that the symbolism and imagery created in Kizilay Square would go on to transform how these students viewed the world and imagined themselves within a public life that prior to then was wholly inaccessible. After a military coup, Kizilay Square was the site of revolutionary celebration and was to be renamed "Liberty Square" and became the locus of freedom of speech.

Description of method used in the article
By utilizing primary and secondary sources, the author seeks to identify the processes by which various representational spaces (ie. Lefebvrian spaces that are lived and experienced through associated symbols and images by which our imagination seeks to change and appropriate) and readings of spaces in Kizilay Square - which came to possess corporeal political practices - brought to bear the power of user's imagination. In short, the author wants to trace the path to the realization of Kizilay Square as both a bourgeoisie space and site of the formation/imagining of a new social identity among students cohering around government resistance.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Archival / Historical
Physical types
Geographic locations