The Making of a Gecekondulu Identity: Journalistic Representations of the Squatters in Turkey in the 1970s

Avci Ö.

JOURNAL OF URBAN HISTORY, vol.40, no.2, pp.211-231, 2014 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 40 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/0096144213508613
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.211-231
  • Keywords: urban poor, representation, identity, gecekondu, POOR


While many studies have undertaken analyses of the socioeconomic and political problems resulting from rural-urban migration in developing nations, few have examined the symbolic challenges presented by this shift. Examining news reports on the most sensational instance of slum demolitions in Turkey that took place in 1977, this study argues that urban squatting and slum dwelling created vital problems of cultural representation. In spite of huge ideological differences among various newspapers, there was a surprising level of consistency in the portrayal of the squatters as a dubious group, devoid of ideological commitment, and a serious threat to society. Such a portrayal of the urban poor as nonideological actors has been dominant worldwide, which overlooks the powerful symbolic challenge that the very existence of this group poses to idealized projects of social change, and hence the potential that their despised (non)identity offers for the development of a more democratic political vision.