Village, city and in between: the urbanization of rural settlements in Turkey
(American University of Beirut)
Paper short abstract:
Since the late 2000s Turkey's Mass Housing Administration has produced rural dwellings in addition to urban housing. Both drawing on and diverging from model villages built in the 1930s, which idealized a modern countryside, the new projects impose urban models on villages and rural landscapes.
Paper long abstract:
When Bülent Ecevit, a legendary center-left Turkish politician, was fighting a serious illness in a hospital bed in 2003, one of his requests from the newly-elected government was the continuation of the ongoing village-city projects in northern Turkey. In these projects, 5-10 villages would be clustered around a "central village," making modern infrastructure and social services accessible to all. Ecevit first imagined them in the 1970s, but village-cities had their precedent in a series of model village projects developed in Turkey by the reformist governments of the early twentieth century. The intention was to improve the condition of rural areas by envisioning that peasants would live in model homes and work in small industries adjacent to rationally planned rural settlements. Although situated in political polar opposites, the conservative government of the time adopted the idea, but gave it a slight twist. In late 2000s Turkey's Mass Housing Administration included a number of "agricultural-villages" to its busy program of mass and luxury housing development. These villages would offer "contemporary alternatives" to regions which suffer from migration, losing significant amount of their workforce to big cities. This paper critically analyses the politics that tie the three projects together. It argues that while the earlier models followed modernist ideals where the countryside offered an escape from the congested industrial city, with the "agricultural-village" projects the village is imagined as a peripheral yet integral part of existing urban formations, signaling the end of contemporary rural landscapes in Turkey.
Rural dwellings: various ways of homemaking