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New Left Review 51, May-June 2008

Its population swollen by six million new arrivals in thirty years, Istanbul has sprawled outwards from the Bosphorus with dramatic speed. Cihan Tugal analyses the contradictions of an urban Islamism, wedded both to vote-winning populism and to financial markets.



Like its predecessors, Istanbul has always been positioned as a ‘world city’, as much by its geo-economic location—at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, Russia and the Mediterranean—as by its spectacular setting, straddling the wooded hillsides on both sides of the Bosphorus, with the perfect natural harbour of the Golden Horn slicing its western bank. Its social dynamics in the age of global capital have been scarcely less dramatic. In the last twenty years the city’s population has doubled to over 10 million, reflecting the massive upheavals of the Turkish countryside. Uprooted villagers have poured into the post-imperial city, throwing up whole neighbourhoods of gecekondular—self-built ‘overnight’ dwellings. Istanbul’s transformation in these decades has been aptly described by çaglar Keyder and Ayse öncü as the globalization of a Third World metropolis. [1] çaglar Keyder and Ayse öncü, ‘Globalization of a Third World Metropolis: Istanbul in the 1980s’, Review, Summer 1994.

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Cihan Tuğal, ‘The Greening of Istanbul’, NLR 51: £3

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