Place brands, nonbrands, tags, and queries : the networks of urban activism in the creative city Istanbul

Rolien HOYNG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


This article aims for a deeper understanding of an emerging urban-political culture that interweaves digital platforms and urban spaces, institutions and the extra-institutional. It explores political possibilities and limitations of urban activism in the context of ‘creative city’ oriented policy-making in Istanbul, Turkey. My approach highlights the production of agency/disempowerment and solidarity/isolation through socio-technical networks that assemble multifarious issues of concern and care. Activist strategies in Istanbul engaged the productive tension between (1) biopolitical apparatuses introduced with ‘creative city’ governance that extract value from the creative production and cultural participation of citizens and (2) the disregard or devaluation of citizen bodies in socially exclusive processes of urban transformation. The struggle over the impoverished Romani neighbourhood Sulukule, which faced demolition, introduced a mode of urban activism consisting in the appropriation of organizational techniques and regimes of value and visibility of Istanbul's ‘creative city’ governance apparatuses. Repurposing place branding for a technique of networked self-organization and claiming brand value for the deprived neighbourhood, activist practices transfigured the place brand into the anti-brand and nonbrand as well as into tags, queries and addresses operating in digital space. This article analyses Sulukule's struggle – and its connections and disconnections to other struggles – to explore activism's potential to challenge stratifications and inequalities between people and places engendered by ‘creative city’ projects, which themselves are often implicated in exclusive urban transformation processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-517
Number of pages24
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number3
Early online date20 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Istanbul
  • actor-network-theory
  • creative city
  • networking
  • place branding
  • urban politics


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