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Urban Resistance: New Heritage and Commons in Conflict Situations.

Conference contribution
Authors Feras Hammami
Evren Uzer
Published in 2nd International Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies
Publication year 2014
Published at School of Design and Crafts
Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Urban resistance, heritage, commons, conflict, Nablus, Istanbul
Subject categories Social Anthropology, Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, Architecture


The past decades have witnessed rapid growth of urban dissent and resistances, including everyday life insurgencies, protests, riots, and urban social movements, challenging the way cities are planned and managed. Protesters with different backgrounds united by similar sense of discontent from the current situation are likely to produce new (spaces of) ‘commons’. These commons, as conceived by protesters, could be either -temporarily secured even enclosed- physical places or places with borders in the imaginary. This paper investigates how heritage and urban resistance both as concepts and as empirical realities for people on the ground are fundamentally interdependent and today contribute and characterize new forms of conflicts and ‘commons’. Rather than ‘governing common-pool resources’ (Ostrom 1990), the commons in this study is seen as ‘the shared conceptualization of time and temporal values created by a culture-carrying collectivity’ (Bluedorn & Waller 2006) in ‘dynamic’ and ‘shared’ spaces (Hardt and Negri, 2011) that are ‘open to all’ (Harvey 2012: 72). Along this unfolding of the ‘commons’ in its imaginary, institutional, and material forms, urban resistance is understood as part of everyday life, and profoundly relate to issues of identity, recognition and sense of place. These conceptions and arguments are underlain by preliminary investigation of the destruction of the Al-Qaryon Square, located in the Historic City of Nablus, as part of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over history and presence, and the recent violent episodes that have erupted in Istanbul related to the re-construction of an Ottoman military barrack in Gezi Park. Both cases present diverse events and situations where people’s plural interpretations of, and claims on, the very same sites, objects, and evidence of the past are just one side of a coin that on the other, constitutes micro dynamics of negotiating conflict, inclusion/exclusion, security, recognition and identity with regard to the very same sites, objects, and evidence of the past. Urban resistances in both cases not only unfold diverse socio-spatial relationships based on competing interpretation of the past, but they also construct and reconstruct aspects of new ‘shared heritage’ and ‘commons’. While these findings provide deeper understanding of urban resistance and conflicts in/over the commons, they also open up for new understanding of heritage and its commoning in contemporary societies. Such an approach to conflict in the commons may help us to make theoretical and political sense of the contemporary phenomena of urban resistance.

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