Internal Migration, the City, and Oppositions: Spatial Fragments of a Cinematic Narrative

İç Göç, Kent ve Karşıtlıklar




Cinematic Space, Urban Identity, Birds of Exile


This study examines the interaction of Turkish cinema and architecture with an interdisciplinary approach in order to analyze the influence of the changing social, cultural and architectural structure of Istanbul, which has experienced intense population growth due to migration in the second half of the 20th century, on its urban identity. Via the movie examined, how Istanbul is represented in its spatial context, how modernization movements effected a disintegration in the social structure, and the way the housing typologies were formed are evaluated along the line of modernity-tradition.

The 1960s were years during which all sorts of political, cultural and architectural changes were experienced in Turkey. In this period, cities became loci of attraction that received intense migration as a result of modernization movements and mechanization in production. Diverse cultural groups were settled in the city in segregated patterns. The migration waves rapidly changed the social and spatial structure in the cities. Housing typologies in cities differ in relation to the economic and cultural level of the individuals inhabiting the homes. The living space has not only reflected the identity and origin of the individual, but has also been a form of representation that shows how well the individual has been able to adapt to the modernizing city.

The unplanned urbanization, slum formation, apartment block construction and concomitant changes that occurred in the architectural texture of the city as a result of intense migration, and the widening gap between the urbanite and the peasant, were reflected onto the Turkish cinema of the period. With the social realist approach that it embarked upon in 1960, Turkish cinema began to depict the daily lives of ordinary people, the issues of migration and slums, the rural-urban distinction and the way individuals existed in the city. This genre of cinema, which oriented towards urban centers receiving migration emphasized the poverty and undesirable life of the migrants, while in contrast, it depicted the good life and wealth of the urbanites. Considering that modernization is taken to be "Westernization" in Turkey, the notion that those who migrated from rural areas to the city represent traditionalism and are not civilized has been commonplace in this form of cinema. The opposition between the concepts of modernity and tradition in migration-themed films is projected by emphasizing spatial and cultural differences in lifestyles, attires and family structures. Cinema, as a branch of art that depicts both urbanites and the physical environments of the city, provides valuable support to reading and documenting the architectural texture of the city and the housing typology which underwent important changes depending on the region during this period.

The film Gurbet Kuşları (1964), selected within the context of the study, is one of the first films about internal migration that occurred in this period in Turkey. Gurbet Kuşları deals with the problems faced by a family that migrated from Kahramanmaraş to Istanbul and the conflicts and alienation created by the city culture. Furthermore, it is an important source in terms of its spatial analyses of the city, the reflections of economic and social stratification on housing typology, modernization and the display of cultural differences between urbanites and peasants in private and public spaces.

Among the reasons for choosing Gurbet Kuşları for the study are;

The way the urbanite-peasant opposition reflected onto cinema through real (existing) spaces,

The originality in the fiction of the spatial connection in the character-space relationship

In terms of architecture, the highlighting of cultural and social differences through the concept of the street as well as housing typology.

The literature review conducted for the study has identified Sinemada Mimarlık (Architecture in Cinema) compiled by Nevnihal Erdoğan, Hikmet Temel Akarsu and Türkiz Özbursalı and Sinemada Mimari Açılımlar: Halit Refiğ Filmleri (Architectural Overtures in Cinema: The Films of Halit Refiğ) written by Fatoş Adiloğlu, which deals with the relationship between cinema and architecture, as sources of primary importance. In addition, Halit Refiğ's Ulusal Sinema Kavgası (The National Cinema Fight) explains how the cinema of the period was formed. Finally, works by Afife Batur, Sibel Bozdoğan and İlhan Tekeli, which deal with the developing architecture and urbanization process in Turkey during this period has contributed significantly to the study.

Turkish cinema of the 1960s, with its power to produce a city image and the use of space it reflects regarding the city and its inhabitants, is an important narrative tool reflecting the architecture of the period and the social change under the effects of modernization. Therefore, through cinema which contributes the theory of architecture; the study combines analyses of the influence of social change on the individual and urban identity via migration, the spatial reflections of cultural differences and the dimension of the modernization movements that took place at the Istanbul city scale.