Muhtars becoming real estate agents: Changing roles of neighborhood representatives in relation to the state-led urban transformation in cincin, Ankara, Turkey


Aykac G.

JOURNAL OF URBAN AFFAIRS, 2022 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/07352166.2022.2027779
  • Title of Journal : JOURNAL OF URBAN AFFAIRS
  • Keywords: Muhtar, social actors, urban transformation, cincin, gecekondu, MIGRANTS, POLITICS

Abstract

This paper investigates the changing roles of muhtars (neighborhood representatives) through the state-led urban transformation of a gecekondu (squatter housing) district named cincin, close to the historic center of Ankara, Turkey. Muhtars are specific actors in the local government, elected independently of political parties as respected members of neighborhood communities, having social and political roles entailing leadership and mediatorship. However, scholarship exploring muhtars as key social figures and active urban agents is limited. The present study draws on fieldwork mainly conducted in the summer of 2019, including in-depth interviews with muhtars and residents still living in cincin, revealing that the muhtars of gecekondus played an active role in initiating urban transformation processes in association with formal agents. Alongside negative consequences such as increasing crime rates and forcible displacement of residents, the social power of muhtars over their neighborhoods has diminished; they have recently been working more as unofficial real estate agents than social figures. This case provides a specific reading of local social actors and their roles, blurring the lines between informal and formal processes of state-led urban transformation.