[This is the introduction to a roundtable produced by Jadaliyya’s Turkey Page Editors reflecting on the tenth anniversary of the 2013 Gezi Park protests and its afterlives. Scroll down for a full list of articles and compendia included in this bundle, which will be progressively updated.]
From 2010 onwards, the world was swept by a transnational cycle of political protests and occupy movements against dictators in North Africa and the Middle East, global capitalism in the USA, and austerity politics in different parts of Europe. Despite the short durations of many of these movements, their transformative potential , promises for the emergence of new repertoires of collective action, and the creation of new political subjectivities led to academic, intellectual, and political discussions with a renewed interest in protest movements. Now, a decade later, the collective memories of these mass upheavals are often overshadowed by war, violence, waves of displacement, heightened authoritarianism, and massive ecological destruction in different parts of the world. Despite the increasingly repressive political regimes across the world, these massive mobilizations remain powerful examples of reenergizing collective action, political mobilization, and solidarity, generating new strengths and capacities for politics. Currently, it is difficult to revitalize the affective intensities of such contestations given today’s conditions wherein it seems unlikely that a political change would favor economically, socially, and politically oppressed and excluded populations. However, making a comprehensive analysis of what occurred both during and in the aftermath of these mass protests is crucial for understanding the foundations of the current status quo and imagining alternative future politics from where we stand today.
Inspired by this wave of popular protests, Turkey also witnessed the most massive political mobilization in its recent history during the summer of 2013. Starting as a local demonstration against the ruling government’s attempt to demolish the Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul, protests quickly spread across the country, bringing together millions of diverse dissidents in resistance. While the protesters in Istanbul occupied Gezi Park and Taksim Square for two weeks, the idea of occupying public spaces was embraced by protestors in different cities as well. After the occupied squares and parks were violently evacuated by the police, protestors continued to gather in public park forums in their locales through the end of the fall. Following the localization of protests, Turkey witnessed a proliferation of self-organized local networks of political activism including neighborhood assemblies, squats, consumption cooperatives, urban defense initiatives, democracy assemblies, and many more which aspired to become actors of urban resistance and political opposition within the changing landscape of politics in Turkey. These post-Gezi political initiatives, which are widely accepted to be part of the legacy of the Gezi protests, have functioned as emerging fields of solidarity and political subjectivity, mobilizing a new political language and developing new repertoires of collective action and political participation.
Even though the political power balance did not change in the favor of the protestors, and Turkey has gone through an ever-increasing authoritarian transformation in its aftermath, the Gezi uprising remains a political and affective reference for those who would like to challenge the status quo in Turkey today. After long decades of state violence and the persecution of dissident actors and movements, activating collective resistance by previously marginalized and isolated segments of society created excitement among not only the protestors and their supporters but also researchers and artists who have been writing and producing about the sociopolitical transformation in Turkey.
While the thrill of collective resistance engendered by this mass mobilization cultivated hopes to contest the existing social and political order, neither the joyful sense of being together in the occupied public spaces nor the creation of new forms of collective action lasted long. Yet, despite their ephemerality, the collective memory of the uprisings remains alive among its supporters and also the ruling government and its supporters, best emblematized in the imprisonment of activists. Today, under Erdoğan’s entrenched authoritarian regime, collectively shared desires for an alternative future along with the concrete demands and expectations of change persist among broader society.
Over the past decade, there has been a plethora of academic, journalistic, artistic, and cultural productions on the multi-layered components of Gezi examining its underlying sociopolitical reasons, class character, diverse profiles of protestors and their creativity, plurality in language and practices, and many more. While some of them reproduce overly romanticized accounts recalling the effervescence of coming, acting, and staying together in the occupied parks and squares, and mass mobilization in the streets, others interpret the uprisings as failures or lost opportunities for political change in Turkey, corroborating the collective feelings of loss, despair, and frustration in the face of the current authoritarian regime.
Taking the tenth anniversary of Turkey's Gezi uprisings as an opportunity to collaboratively reflect on multiple dimensions of mass protests and their afterlives, we are launching a roundtable discussion that aims to provide open space for alternative perspectives that move beyond either celebratory or nostalgic narratives on these outside-of-ordinary moments of collective action. Our goal is to support critical interventions around the legacies, lessons learned, and alternative political imaginations of Gezi, acknowledging both the transformative promises and also the contradictions and shortcomings of collective action and political organization.
In this roundtable, we bring scholars, artists, and activists together to interrogate the long-lasting effects of the Gezi uprisings in today’s politics of dissent in Turkey and to direct attention to their aftermath elaborating on multiple forms of political organization at different times of political contention in Turkey. Our aim is to collate collective and personal experiences, scholarly reflections, and artistic observations in a variety of formats, in keeping with the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and forms of expression that our contributors bring to the roundtable. Through these reflections, we hope to contribute to both scholarship and public debate by creating space for creative and generative discussion around what Gezi means, as well as around the politics of resistance, solidarity, and collective action.
The publication of this roundtable coincided with the devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey and northern Syria which immediately turned into a humanitarian tragedy and political crisis. As we are all sharing the grief, pain, and anger with many others and thinking about alternatives against the colonial and extractive underdevelopment of the region, which caused immense and preventable losses, some of the contributions to this roundtable will reflect on the connections and disconnections between Gezi and its visions of sustainable futures based on inter-communal solidarity, mutual aid, and collective empowerment.
- From the Gezi Uprising to the 2023 Earthquake: Charting Turkey’s Ecological Destruction and Reconstruction by Cihan Tugal
- Reclaiming Space: The Legacy of Gezi and the Struggle for Post-Disaster Planning in Turkey by Deren Ertas
- Gezi'den Kooperatiflere Bir Dayanışma Ekonomisi Örgütlenme Deneyimi by Yerdeniz Kooperatifi
- Çatlak Zemin ile Kadınların Gezi Direnişi, Feminist Harekette Yeni Tartışmalar ve Dijital Feminist Yayıncılık Üzerine by Çatlak Zemin
- Gezi Direnişi’nden Bugüne Yoğurtçu Kadın Forumu by Yoğurtçu Kadın Forumu
- Revisiting Gezi through a Queer and Feminist Perspective: An Interview with Evren Savcı by Birgan Gokmenoglu, Derya Özkaya, and Evren Savcı
- Validebağ Savunması ile Gezi’den Bugüne Kent ve Ekoloji Mücadeleleri Üzerine by Birgan Gokmenoglu and Derya Özkaya
- Beyond Rebellion: Gezi as a World-Making Movement by Kaan Ağartan
- Fluctuating between the “Local” and the “National”: The Politics of Alliances from Below in the Afterlives of Gezi by Derya Özkaya
- Gezi’den Bugüne Türkiye’de Sınıf Mücadeleleri by Aslı Odman & Cem Özatalay & Emre Yeksan
- direnişin görsel hafızası: 10 yıl sonra gezi’ye arşivden bakmak by videoccupy - vidyokolektif
- From the Organized Hope of 2013 to the Cruel Optimism of 2023: Generating Hope in Political Struggle by Birgan Gokmenoglu