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Watch John Lubbock's ‘Istanbul: The Politics of Architecture’

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Armenia, Turkey, Arts & Culture, Development, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, History, Politics
The old Greek Orphanage on Buyukada/Prinkipo island near Istanbul. Screenshot from Istanbul: The Politics of Architecture by John Lubbock

The old Greek orphanage on Buyukada/Prinkipo island near Istanbul. Screenshot from Istanbul: The Politics of Architecture by John Lubbock

John Lubbock, the author of a recent post [1] on Global Voices about construction, over-development and gentrification in Turkey, returns to the theme in a fantastic self-produced documentary tapping the rich seams of Istanbul's multicultural history, and reflecting on the city's increasingly monocultural future.

Here Lubbock describes Istanbul:The Politics of Architecture in his own words.

Since the first time I came to Istanbul, I've been interested in the design of the city, its built environment and the way people interact with that. It's so different to London, where I come from. And compared to Western Europe, there are many Ozymandias-like remnants of fallen empires scattered around the city. I wanted to find out more about the history of these cultural remnants, and what the current construction boom means for Turkish society. In this, I've been influenced by my understanding of psychogeography and its tradition, which sees time as a landscape. Here is the author Alan Moore's definition of psychogeography:

“In its simplest form I understand psychogeography to be a straightforward acknowledgement that we, as human beings, embed aspects of our psyche…memories, associations, myth and folklore…in the landscape that surrounds us.”

So my intention was to find out what the architecture of Istanbul says about the architecture of the Turkish psyche, both past and present, and what we can learn about Turkish culture and politics as a result.

I am doing another project about the commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and the responses to this event within Turkish society. There will be a lot written about this event, on April 24, and it seems to me that it's important to understand how this history is viewed within Turkey, given that the objective of most Armenian groups is for the Turkish state to recognise that the events of 1915 constitute a genocide as we now understand the term. What are the political, psychological and social obstacles to this recognition and the inter-cultural reconciliation which it could lead to? These are really interesting questions for someone like myself who is interested in how we avoid repeating the mistakes that led to so much suffering in the past.

I am sure there are Turkish nationalists, as well as some Armenian groups, who wouldn't agree with my analysis of these questions, but the most important thing is to have a conversation about how the past has affected the world today, rather than brushing these psychological wounds under the carpet of history, where they are not likely to stay hidden for long.

The complete documentary can be watched here: