Barbarians in Istanbul: Different Approaches Towards the Urban Transformation Conundrum

in Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild
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This essay tests affirmative mobilizations of barbarism as modes of resistance to neoliberal forms of governance, both in art and in protest movements. Taking readers to contemporary Istanbul, the essay juxtaposes two cases, which both responded in their own way to recent urban transformation projects in Istanbul: the 13th Istanbul Biennale (2013) titled “Mom, am I barbarian?” and the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The focus here is on the differences between the Biennale’s call for a positive barbarism within the institutional confines of an artistic event and the use of linguistic barbarisms as part of a new ‘grammar’ of political resistance during the Gezi Park protests, mainly through wall writings. Viewing both mobilizations of barbarism as potential strategies of resistance, Soyupak examines their different implications by relating them to Walter Benjamin’s notion of “positive barbarism” and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s employment of barbarism in their book Empire (2001).

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