Graffiti writing in Istanbul: spatial misuse and right to visibility

“How can (urban) space be instrumental to the development of an intercultural dialogue?” is the leading question of an ongoing interdisciplinary Ph.D. research that aims at taking part in the debate on the transformation of public space in the age of globalization by focusing on sociological theories on public realm and on the history of public space in Istanbul as fields of study.
The ‘spatial turn’, and more specifically Henri Lefebvre’s theories in “The Production of Space” (1974) offer the theoretical background to explore the concept of citizenship starting from the analysis of the urban space. The city of Istanbul provides a specific case study to examine the dialectical relation between the production of (public) space and the reproduction of social relations. The transformations of social relations are reflected on (urban) space, and social change, in order to be effective, dialectically requires the (social) production of new space. The work focuses on graffiti writing as leisure practice of socio-spatial resistance and political struggle. The objective is to rethink the meaning, role and boundaries of public realm, in order to conceptualize a notion of citizenship that is adequate to our globalized world, i.e. beyond any Eurocentric or Orientalist prejudice and beyond national and territorial/national definitions. Is the common use that makes a space public or is there a need of well-defined morphological boundaries? My research on the production of public space in Istanbul goes back to the 19th century to find traces of informal (public) use of spaces that preceded the introduction of formally defined public spaces and persisted until nowadays. Starting from the historical spatiality of social processes the analysis stresses spatial-historical-social continuity and is instrumental to the examination of contemporary novelties (i.e. new forms of and practices in public space, new ways to claim democratic rights), in order to envisage a better future of society.

BIO | Moira Bernardoni is a Doctoral Fellow at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara within the project ‘Englobe’ (‘Enlightenment & Global History’). Her interdisciplinary research between urban history and social studies focuses on the social production of public space in Istanbul.
Originally Italian, prior to moving to Turkey, she lived in Germany and the UK. She studied Philosophy and Arts & Heritage Management. Her eclectic background encompasses work experiences in the public relations, cultural, education and architectural industries.

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