Bequeathing Poverty: Slums and the Urban Poor: The Case of Sultanbeyli

Işık, Oğuz and Pınarcıoğlu, M. Melih. Nöbetleşe Yoksulluk: Gecekondulaşma ve Kent Yoksulları: Sultanbeyli Örneği. İstanbul: İletişim, 2002, 368pp.




Bequeathing Poverty: Slums and the Urban Poor, the Case of Sultanbeyli


Nöbetleşe Yoksulluk: Gecekondulaşma ve Kent Yoksulları: Sultanbeyli Örneği


This 368-page book is a sociological study of a shanty town (gecekondu) district in Istanbul, namely Sultanbeyli, in the late 1990s.


This work is an attempt to understand the survival strategies of the urban poor in the face of the social, economic and political transformations after 1980, based on a research project undertaken in 1997 in Sultanbeyli.


The book engages in a critical discussion with the literature on urbanisation and poverty. For understanding the survival strategies of the poor the authors suggest the concept of “bequeathing poverty”. This refers to the functioning principle of socio-economic networks around urban rent and community relations that transfer poverty from early settlers to the late comers, by means of upward mobility. The authors use both qualitative and quantitative techniques to show how “bequeathing poverty” functions in Sultanbeyli.


Işık and Pınarcıoğlu discuss the dynamics of urbanisation in Turkey before and after 1980. They emphasise the gradual urbanisation of the period before 1980, as opposed to the tense and exclusive urbanisation model of the post 1980 period.


Thereafter the authors deal with the history of urbanisation in Sultanbeyli. They use the aggregate data on demographics, economic variables and political differentiation in Sultanbeyli to illustrate the complicated structure of the district that defies the models proposed by the existing literature. In the seventh chapter, based on the genuine quantitative data on age groups, literacy, wealth, and income distribution, the authors argue that the upper, middle and lower segments in Sultanbeyli are formed on the basis of a particular combination of distribution of illegal urban rent, property ownership and ethnic community affiliations.


The conclusion points to the fact that segregation of communities on the basis of religion, ethnicity or wealth creates a society where integration and progress becomes impossible.


The book is targeted to both academic and non-academic audiences. Theory and empirical data is integrated in a very efficient and effective way. At the end of the book there are maps of data gathered in the field survey. There are also the field notes of the authors presented in a scattered format throughout the book.


Overall, although this book has fewer individual stories from Sultanbeyli than expected, it is a breakthrough in urbanisation literature in Turkey as it places the urban poor’s agency at the centre of the narrative.


Helin Burkay

Burkay, Helin. “English abstract of 'of Bequeathing Poverty: Slums and the Urban Poor, the Case of Sultanbeyli'". Translated by Helin Burkay. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 92. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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