Hi! My name is Basak Durgun and I am a Ph.D. candidate at George Mason University Cultural Studies Program. I have a dynamic research program anchored in urban ethnography and critical geography. I apply qualitative methods to analyze social and spatial dynamics in global cities and regions directly influenced by urban expansion. I pay particular attention to new social movements and community activism as they transform landscapes and shape the popular, political and scholarly discourses. In my dissertation research, titled “Cultural Politics of Urban Green Spaces: The Production and Reorganization of Istanbul’s Parks and Gardens,” I investigate the various roles urban green spaces have in the larger landscape and governance of Istanbul. Framing Istanbul’s parks, historic market gardens, community gardens and the private gardens of gated communities as products of socioecological relationships, I examine how different social actors, such as the state, real estate developers, social movements and gardeners, invest in urban green landscapes, and reimagine Istanbul’s future through their engagement with urban nature. I demonstrate that the production of urban green spaces in Istanbul is at once a process to create political legitimacy, spatial control and opportunities for capital accumulation, and a terrain for building of commons, and envisioning a sustainable and democratic future.

My research in Istanbul has taken me to urban groves, city parks, gated communities, productive landscapes like community gardens, historic market gardens and peri-urban agricultural districts. Some days I strolled the stone paths of parks, or sat on benches at length observing the landscape and people. Committed to participatory research, I joined a community garden project and a food collective, and helped plant and maintain the garden and manage the distribution of vegetables from Piyalepaşa and Yedikule bostans, in order to extend the lifetime of these vulnerable green landscapes. I also talked to many gardeners, activists, urban planners and landscape architects, and spent long days at libraries, examining urban planning policy documents, new project plans, institutional discourses of public and private enterprises, gated community advertisements and a variety of new media resources on right to the city advocacy in Istanbul.

My research has been supported by internal grants such as Office of the Provost research and writing grants and the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative Awards, as well as external fellowships such as Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Currently, supported by another external dissertation writing grant by the Institute of Turkish Studies, Basak is working on completing and defending her dissertation in Spring 2019.

I earned my B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and a M.A. in Cultural Studies from Istanbul Bilgi University. At George Mason University, I also taught interdisciplinary courses in the Cornerstones program in School of Integrative Studies (formerly known as New Century College), Global Affairs, Cultural Studies and Women and Gender Studies. Upon graduating with my doctorate in Spring 2019, I hope to continue my career as a university educator and researcher.