n0 fact0RIES...n0 w0rRIES !

 a view towards the bosphrus from a Gecekondu called Kazim Karabekir in Sariyer, Istanbul
Inspired by Timothy Mitchell's article titled No Factories, No Problem, this post discusses the emerging spatial identities due to the neoliberal global logic.
Since the 50s of the past century squatter settlements have been spreading another prephiry of major urban centers in the almost the entire developing world such as Kampungs of Jakarta, favellas of Brazil, colonies populares of Mexico city,busti in Indiabarrios in Argentina, gecekondus of Istanbul and ‘ashwa’i of Cairo. This makes it a global phenomenon and they emerge due to global economics, politics and events.
Gecekondu is a Turkish term that refers to informal settlements that occurred during Turkey's industrialization period between 1945 and 1985.It prevailed during the first wave of migration from rural areas.The emergence of Gecekondus mainly followed the industrial developments especially the Golden Horn which was the prime location for industrial activities in Istanbul. From the 1960s till the 1970s was the golden age of gecekondus as they were beginning to be an accepted solution for housing new migrants and this was intensified when Istanbul became the hub of industrial working class.
Since the mid-1980s major urban restructuring has been going in Istanbul as well as Cairo and many other cities around the world as a result of transformations in local governance and a new set of urban policies that eliminate diversity increasing social inequalities and criminalize density promoting segregation have been implemented. A series of legal changes that have a neo-liberal flavor were made, enabling the planning and implementation of mega projects drastically changing the real-estate market. An example for these major interventions is the demolition of industrial complexes along the shore of the Golden Horn and relocating them to the city peripheries, this shifted the entire course of life of industrial and working class mainly living in Gecekondus not to mention the other urban transformation projects that involves the demolition of whole gecekondu neighborhoods such as Sulukule and Ayazma and relocating their entire population to the edge of the city detaching them from their deeply rooted economic and social networks. Facilitating the dominance of financial and service sector over the economy and the urbanscape, these changes also led to the privatization of various services such as transportation (as far as I know this still didn’t happen in Cairo yet!), electric power production and distribution, even the hospital services and most important housing through providing the right for municipalities to establish or be a part of partnerships with private companies.
According to Mitchell in a neoliberal era the Egyptian state especially the military institution, the largest land owner, became involved as a major urban developer same as the role that TOKl (the Mass Housing Administration, directly under the control of the Prime Ministry) in the Urban Renewal process in Turkey. In going with the national ethics of neo-liberalism applied by the Egyptian state, the contractors who were previously involved in the construction of mass housing for low income class started to develop luxurious compounds for upper middle class. Adding to this, the ministry of housing started around 1994 selling large chunks of land on the desert margins of Cairo for very low prices as an act of subsidizing other major developers. Moreover the expressways necessary to connect these newly constructed “gated” communities with the Capital was constructed. This happened rapidly in contradiction to what the state always spoke about sustainable economic growth and prospering through being a major exporter for fruits and vegetables to Europe and the gulf not paving its fields with new bridges and roads to serve new gated towns for the upper middle class. Real estate became a national income source exceeding in importance agriculture and manufacturing. Dozens of luxurious gated housing projects massively sprawled in the desert circling the dense organic urban area of Cairo. I don’t know if it is intentional or not but most of these gated housing clusters has its name followed by heights and hills such as Qatamiya Heights and Palm Hills, names that imply segregation, distant perspective and overview like being in a belvedere. This radical change of the metropolitan urbanscape can be considered a natural product of the so called economic liberalization which was accompanied by the privatization of politics; not only the urbanscape but the metropolitan social values were taken over and inverted.
Mitchell mentions that instead of opening Egypt to trade with the global world through exports, neo liberalism did the opposite and the value of exports collapsed since 1996. As a result of these neo-liberal economical policies adopted by the Egyptian government, resources turned away from industry and Agriculture and financiers were being subsidized instead of factories. The gated communities were the spectacular of the neo liberalization for a whole decade from 1990 till 2000, so they lie in the middle of the financial crisis; the same crisis that the alliances between businessmen and state officials were formed through.
Mitchell goes to the extent that the absence of political rights of the whole population can also be accounted for the neo liberalization of Egypt. What supports this is Eric Denis's observation that in parallel to the spread of elitist urbanism across the gated communities and while the businessmen were exceptionally privileged; the state tightly censored and controlled all forms of citizen representation through political parties. Now that the political environment is changing after 25th Jan events one wonders will Egypt be able to find a logic that is capable of dealing with global market without neglecting of the rights and needs of its local one!


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The people from the barrio built the city twice: during the day we built the houses of the well-off. At night and at weekends, with solidarity, we built our own homes, our barrio.

  —Andrés Antillano, resident of Caracas, April 15, 2004