Staging the City: Urban Form and Public Life in Istanbul

This course will explore the relationship between urban form and public life in early modern and modern Istanbul. Staging the city’s emerging spatial practices of urban, cultural and societal modernity, it will focus on the use of urban space for leisure, recreation, entertainment, commerce, sports and everyday life (as they unfold in streets, arcades, squares, parks, beaches and urban shores). It will also look at how space is activated by and acquires cultural meaning through major public events throughout history (fires, rebellions, demonstrations, festivals, soccer games etc). The objective of the seminar is to invite both rigorous historical research (urban, cultural and social history; textual, literary, photographic and cinematic representations of the city, timeline of important events etc) and layered spatial analysis (mapping the changes in urban form, shoreline, land use, public-private relationships, access, demolitions, landfills, waterfront development etc). Thematic lectures will frame the research and introduce the range of existing visual, textual, cartographic and digital sources available to seminar participants who are expected to contribute original research projects individually or in small groups. Comparative studies with other major cities across the globe and experimentations with new digital techniques of mapping, text analysis and data visualization are particularly welcome. For eligible participants, a possible extension of the seminar will be a follow up study trip to Istanbul for two weeks in Summer 2016 to produce more focused historical research and projective spatial analysis for a selected site. Enrollment in the seminar does not guarantee participation in study trip to Istanbul.

Supported by the Istanbul Portal of the Mellon Urban Humanities Initiative at Harvard University, the course will be jointly offered with the FAS seminar, HIST 1928 (instructor Cemal Kafadar, History and Center for Middle Eastern Studies).

Requirements for participation are an interest in stanbul and a strong commitment to urban history research and research-informed urban design. Some prior knowledge of the city and/or the Turkish language is helpful but not absolutely essential. The seminar is recommended for PhD, DDes, MDes, MArch and MAUD students.