Between Violence and Care: Dogs of Istanbul
25 June 2020 / 18:00
The mass killing of dogs that took place in 1910 was a strong break from the tradition of caring for and protecting the public presence of dogs in Istanbul. This break is a disaster that could shed light on the political narrative and understanding of sovereignty that led to the deportation of Armenians only a few years later, the dynamics of the population management that was founded on displacement and resettlement, and the crises within our modernization experience. However, the massacre failed to remove not only the dogs but also the tradition of caring encompassing the lives of these creatures from the social and spatial fabric of Istanbul. This incident is a moment of destruction and reconstruction that shaped the control over life, mobility, everyday activities, and random encounters in public spaces; public order, and sanitation policies; governmentality that regulates the relations of settlement, belonging, and coexistence, the symbolic order surrounding common assets and spaces, struggle for rights and justice regarding the use and distribution of public spaces.
This speech focuses on this phenomenon, which I call the decaninization of Istanbul. It deals with the discontinuous, intermittent, and conflicting history of the decaninization of Istanbul from a contemporary historical perspective. Going beyond the discussion of modernization, which focuses on the weaknesses of the westernization perspective and is limited to discursive analysis, this talk focuses on the simultaneous development of political, spatial, legal, and symbolic orders that have shaped the management of the stray animal population, body, and movement in Istanbul. It examines the questions of violence and care that surround the dogs’ bodies, direct their movements, shape the relationships they establish with people, define and limit their rights. It reveals the concurrent, inseparable, intermittent, contingent histories of these relationships that are not limited to repetitive patterns and do not show a linear development. This talk delves into the discourse and development of technologies of governmentality that shaped the population management of stray dogs, transformation of power/knowledge nexus, institutionalization and legalization of compassion, care and conservation practices for animals in Istanbul. In so doing, it initiates a discussion on the breaks and ruptures, conflicts and divergences, dead ends and inconsistencies formed in daily practices aiming to protect animals and share urban public spaces with them.
Mine Yıldırım is a PhD candidate at the political science department of The New School for Social Research.
The Zoom talk will be in Turkish. Limited seats, please make a reservation.