Geographies of Children's Play in the Context of Neoliberal Restructuring in Istanbul

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Übungsraum 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Bengi SULLU, University College London - Graduate, United Kingdom
This research, operating at the interface of urban studies and children’s geographies literatures, aims to analyze the material and discursive transformations of children’s play in the context of neoliberal global restructuring in Istanbul. Looking at the private play centers for children inside shopping malls called “children’s cities” and a public playground, it explores the impact of wider socio-economic transformations on children’s play spaces through an inquiry of the socio-spatial mechanisms and characteristics that stand out in “children’s cities” and the ways in which children’s cities shape the conceptions and practices of play in relation to deprived public play spaces. Primary stage of data collection comprises observation in two children’s cities and a public playground, semi-structured interviews and document analysis of the material from the websites. I suggest that neoliberal material processes of privatization, exclusion and securitization underlying the city space deeply structure the new geographies of play. Normalization of the play taking place in children’s cities is tightly linked to poor conditions of public playgrounds due to municipal neglect, which brings about withdrawal of upper-middle classes from the public spaces but actually shows the most devastating effect on low-income groups since they cannot cease using public play spaces for children’s play. While processes of private investment and public disinvestment in children’s play spaces underline the hegemonic presence of the private spaces within the city, celebration of the children’s cities showcases particular framing of “good play” that valorizes exclusivity, security and instrumentality. One important conclusion about the current state of play spaces in Istanbul is neither glamorous children’s cities nor derelict public playgrounds can meet the benchmarks of “the right to play” that encompasses “free” play and the right to be safe along with the recognition of play as a right in itself rather than being instrumental for other developmental goals.