Urban Ethics

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Istanbul: Heritage ‑ Valuable and Dispensable. The Ethics of Urban Renewal and Heritage Protection, from 1910 to the Gezi Protests of 2013 (2015 - 2019)

The question as to what sort of a city Istanbul is and should be – Islamic, traditional, oriental, a Third World metropolis, (post-) colonial or global – is not a new one. Urban policy and in particular heritage protection discourses have over the past century continually tried to find an answer. Conservation determines whether the urban fabric and its history(-ies) is either worthy of protection or heritage or is worthless, dispensable. "Istanbul Heritage – Valuabe and Dispensable” examines conflicts over historical buildings, which are negotiated through ethical arguments. The project examines how structural forms and historical models are linked to subjects and the ethics of a “good” and “right” life. The negotiation of the value of historical heritage in Istanbul connects not only with the question of how the city should be, but also with who should live in it and how.

In the case of Istanbul, the responsible subject in the period 1910 to 2013 was always a "modern" citizen for whom the city must also take on "modern" form, but at the same time this subject has to prove itself worthy of that city. The modern city and its modern citizens are aware of their "roots", treated them respectfully and knew to preserve them through conservation. These modern citizens protect - just which of the many possible pasts?

Using historical discourse analysis, the research project pursues the aim of making the conflict over heritage more comprehensible as an ethical debate. The aim is to identify the actors involved, documenting changes in the discursive definition of heritage to explain and to consider a possible boom of ethics in the past decade.