The Memories of Infrastructure: Bridges and Buildings Between Earthquake and a Coup Attempt

Authors: Timur Hammond*, Syracuse University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Turkey, materiality, memory, infrastructure, earthquakes, coup attempt
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Plaza Ballroom E, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper juxtaposes two memorial narratives circulating in contemporary Turkey. The first involves the complex legacies of the 1999 Marmara quake that killed tens of thousands, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and helped to set in motion a set of political, legal, cultural, and environmental changes. In September 2019, a 5.8 magnitude quake shook much of the city and prompted many to ask what – if anything – had changed. The second has emerged in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Commemorating the heroism of the nation and framing the defeat of the coup attempt as an event of world-historical importance, this memorial narrative has become closely associated with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I bring these two narratives together by focusing on the shared infrastructural objects that appear in both: Bridges and buildings. I argue that even though these two narratives seem to have little to do with each other, they in fact help us understand both the power of everyday objects and their limits in Turkey today. Comparing and contrasting how bridges and buildings are woven into broader narratives about responsibility, agency, and authority, this paper sheds light on the politics of contemporary Turkey and raises a set of conceptual questions about durability, trauma, and memorial publics.

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