Becoming Roma: Gypsy Identity, Civic Engagement, and Urban Renewal in Turkey
AuthorSchoon, Danielle van Dobben
AdvisorAçıksöz, Salih Can
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is a study of economic, political, and social reforms in contemporary Turkey and how they are experienced by the country's Romani ("Gypsy") population. By focusing on urban renewal projects, the pluralization of cultural identities, and the proliferation of civil society organizations, this dissertation analyzes these changes in urban Romani communities, examining how state and civil society initiatives impact identity and civic engagement. This research contributes broadly to work in anthropology studying the relationship between culture and power, specifically investigating how local cultural identities and practices intersect and interact with transnational political-economic processes. While the meaning and application of the concept of 'culture' has been much debated in the social sciences, this analysis is situated within studies that consider culture a site of governance. Many modern forms of governance work less through force than by subjecting culture to the political logic of empowerment and improvement. This study interrogates this process via ethnographic research with dislocated Roma and Romani rights civic actors in three Turkish cities, focusing in particular on one dislocated Romani community from a neighborhood in Istanbul known as Sulukule. The project is unique in that it addresses Romani identity, culture, and citizenship where they intersect with current politics around urban development in Turkey. While 'urban renewal' projects are incorporating the land of the urban poor into new plans for Istanbul as a global city, Romani residents find themselves increasingly dispossessed. More than interventions that aim to improve the conditions of Turkey's Roma, urban development has renewed the politicization of urban Romani communities, particularly the youth, who have begun participating in social movements and Romani rights activism. The study finds that, while the changes resulting from liberalization and democratization in Turkey are typically posed by scholars, politicians, and civil society actors as either positive or negative, the advantages and disadvantages for marginalized populations like the Roma are actually simultaneously produced and mutually constituted. While Turkey's Roma are being integrated into discourses, practices, and institutions of Turkish national belonging and transnational Romani rights solidarity, they are also facing the dissolution of their local communities, traditional occupations, and cultural life. This dissertation suggests broader repercussions for anthropological understandings of the impact of free-market liberalization and democratization in so-called 'developing countries,' and particularly interrogates the politics of 'openness', the relationship between civil society and 'political society', and the role of transnational networks in urban politics.
Degree ProgramGraduate College