"They know very well what they are doing, but still, they are doing it" : Turkish Cittaslow towns of Gökçeada and Halfeti
Abstract: Today a majority of the world’s population is living in urban areas and this trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. Globalization plays a key role in the expansion of urban areas as well as urban-related social, economic and environmental problems. Accelerating pace of life together with the globalization of the economy and culture has brought with it homogenization of lives and places as well as diverse sustainability problems. The concept of Cittaslow (Slow City), a spin-off network of towns from Slow Food Movement that was found in 1999, developed as an antidote to deal with the growing environmental, social and economic problems of cities by suggesting different ways of planning urban life, urban economy and urban ecology. This thesis focuses on the experiences of the Turkish towns of Gökçeada and Halfeti as the recent members of the Cittaslow network and addresses the internal dynamics and tensions that the movement possesses. Through fieldwork over a period of one month in Gökçeada and Halfeti, I generated data through conducting 47 semi-structured interviews, participant observation and 2 focus groups, as well as generating audio-visual materials to explore he real life implications of Cittaslow prescriptions. By utilizing the Lacanian psychoanalysis and the theories of followers of Lacan including Slavoj Zizek, Yannis Stavrakakis, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, I claim that what Cittaslow aims for does not happen in reality. Specifically, I argue that the comfort term 'sustainability', which is an empty signifier in itself, has been dominating the Cittaslow narrative as the master signifier/nodal point which quilts other signifiers of “local economy”, “localness” and “tourism” around itself. These three signifiers acquire their meanings in relation to the master signifier of “sustainability” in these two towns. Thus, Cittaslow is infused with different meanings across different contexts, particularly in Gökçeada and Halfeti. In both cases, 'local economy', 'tourism' and 'localness' start to dominate sustainability concerns, which in turn cause more harm to the environment and societal relations.
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