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Protest, Bodies, and the Grounds of Memory: Taksim Square as 'heritage site' and the 2013 Gezi Protests

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christopher Whitehead, Dr Gonul Bozoglu



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper examines heritage representations within the 2013 “Gezi” protests in Turkey, focusing on the contest over the historical, social, and political significance of Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul. Gezi Park is a multi-layered urban space, once associated with the Armenian community, then with the Ottoman military and finally, from the 1930s, with the modernist urbanism of the secular Republic. Prior to the protests, the conservative Islamist administration planned to erase and refashion Gezi Park as a site of neo-Ottoman nostalgia. While the protests were associated with ecological and civil society concerns, the contest between protestors and state actors was also characterized by competing mobilizations of histories and notions of legitimate heritage over a range of representational sites and forms, from political speeches to protestors’ performances. Combining an analysis of these representations with interview data we explore Taksim-Gezi as a site of “ground memories” that are selectively articulated and strategically renewed by different groups. The state attempt to erase and remake place in a specific historical image was countered by people's diverse mnemonic and socio-ideological relations to place histories, that became repertories for reaction. We argue that civil crises like protests may help us to understand and problematize the spatio-temporal, multi-relational articulations of heritage, and, vice versa, a view through heritage and memory opens critical exposures of socio-political conflict.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehead C, Bozoğlu G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Heritage and Society

Year: 2016

Volume: 9

Issue: 2

Pages: 111-136

Online publication date: 30/03/2017

Acceptance date: 03/06/2016

Date deposited: 11/04/2017

ISSN (print): 2159-032X

ISSN (electronic): 2159-0338

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/2159032X.2017.1301084


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