Permanences Against Cultural Amnesia: Reconstructing the Urban Narrative of the Rum Community of Fener, Istanbul

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

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Permanences Against Cultural Amnesia: Reconstructing the Urban Narrative of the Rum Community of Fener, Istanbul


  • Ilgi Toprak Independent Researcher, USA


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Abstract:  In this article I reconstruct the place narrative of the Rum community (Greeks of Turkey) in Fener, Istanbul through unrest, displacement, and gentrification, and how the urban fabric, everyday life, and encounters transformed through different phases of urban change. Fener was a neighbourhood where cultural groups coexisted with mutual respect. This environment started to deteriorate when societal unrest towards non-Muslims resulted in a city-wide assault in 1955 and a subsequent displacement of many non-Muslims from the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood decayed and later became an attractive spot for gentrifiers because of its multicultural history. This implicated a massive physical change after an unimplemented regeneration project leading to gentrification. I theorize this narrative mainly based on Whitehead’s “permanences,” the stabilities in the physical and non-physical presence of Rums in Fener and Bhabha’s “in-between temporalities” as complements of permanences, defining space-time envelopes that signify both adjustment and resilience, but also amnesia as a result of urban unrest through social and physical change. The Rum urban narrative provides a complex story of challenged community identity; therefore, it necessitates the use of several qualitative research methods: interviews with older residents, historical investigation with documentation, and personal observation. The study results show that the Rum community’s daily practices and placeworlds were lost; however, the community remembers permanences better than in-between temporalities. Linking fragmented narratives by reconstructing them fights cultural amnesia and leads to a better connection with place and past contexts.

Keywords:  cultural amnesia; displacement; permanence; Rum heritage; urban change

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6063


© Ilgi Toprak. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.