Making the invisible visible: Mapping the Networks of Dispossession in Turkey’s urban transformation processes
The interview with Yaşar Adnan Adanalı focuses on the collective data-compiling and mapping project The Networks of Dispossession, which is dedicated to analyse the relations between urban development projects and the related concentration of capital and power in Turkey. As becomes clear in the course of the interview, the understanding of dispossession on which this mapping project is based is defined broadly. It includes the loss of natural resources, urban spaces, neighbourhoods, apartments and lives as a result of urban transformation processes.
The Networks of Dispossession project includes three maps (link: mulksuzlestirme.org): the first map ‘Projects of Dispossession’ (see Figure 1) exposes partnerships of private corporations and governmental institutions in Turkey; the second map, ‘Partnerships of Dispossession’ (see Figure 2) reveals the close partnerships between different private developers, state actors and institutions and media companies; the third map ‘Dispossessed Minorities’ (see Figure 3 ) examines how properties of minorities, which were confiscated by governmental organizations, have been re-allocated over time.
NG: In addition to this you also mapped the deaths that occurred in connection to the urban renewal projects. Can you talk a bit about this?
YAA: We also wanted to include the labour murders because of the argument that the very appetite for development happens not only at the expense of our public spaces and our urban and rural commons, but it was also dispossessing the workers from their right to live. We wanted to make this argument visible, so we highlighted those projects where, during the construction, workers lost their lives because of poor or no safety regulations.
How relevant this was became obvious during the Soma mining massacre in May 2014. The mining sector, which – in Turkey – follows very much a public-private-partnership model exploits the workers. There are poor working conditions and no governmental safety regulations. The mining company invested the surplus value that they extracted from their workers in the mines into projects in the centre of Istanbul, building the highest skyscraper. They even claimed that this skyscraper would be the “safest” skyscraper in Turkey because based on being a mining company they could use the best cement. But because they were not providing the best of everything to the workers in their mines, 300 of their workers lost their lives in the biggest mining accident in Europe for at least a decade and in Turkey by far. You see – this was very much connected – a real estate development project in the central business district of Istanbul, which was – by the way – also a project of dispossession because it had a very controversial building permit exceeding the existing building limits. This project was made possible by the connection to a small mining town, where the company basically killed more than 300 people (see Figure 6). All this was only possible because the private mining company could get into partnership with the Turkish state. The state provided a guarantee to the company to buy as much coal extracted as possible from that mine, which paved the way to the race to the bottom for the workers.