Basak Durgun is a Ph.D. candidate at George Mason University Cultural Studies Program. Her interdisciplinary training is rooted in urban studies, with a particular focus on urban culture, mobilities and spatial practices, political ecology, social movements, garden and landscape studies, gender and sexuality studies, queer theory. In her dissertation research, titled “Cultural Politics of Urban Green Spaces: The Production and Reorganization of Istanbul’s Parks and Gardens,” Basak examines how different social actors, such as the state, real estate developers, social movements and gardeners, invest in urban green landscapes, and reimagine Istanbul’s future through their engagement with urban nature. Building on the premise that green landscapes have a key role in both urban redevelopment policies and cultural imaginary, she analyzes how these vulnerable landscapes are enrolled in social, economic and political processes of urbanization.
Basak’s dissertation research in Istanbul takes her to urban groves, city parks in different sizes, productive landscapes like community gardens, historic market gardens and peri-urban agricultural districts and gated communities. Some days she strolls the stone paths of parks, or sitting on benches people watching. Other days she is pulling out overgrown weeds, watering, making organic insecticide from garlic, planting vegetables and fruit trees in community gardens or distributing cases of vegetables from gardens at a community space. She talks to gardeners, activists, urban planners and landscape architects, and examines urban planning policy documents, new project plans, institutional discourses of public and private enterprises, advertisements and a variety of new media resources on right to the city advocacy in Istanbul. Committed to participatory research, she engages with diverse efforts to extend the lifetime of Istanbul’s historical market-gardens and community gardens.
Basak’s research has been supported by internal grants such as Office of the Provost research and writing grants and the Interdisciplinary Curriculum Collaborative Awards, as well as external fellowships such as Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Currently, supported by another external dissertation writing grant by the Institute of Turkish Studies, Basak is working on completing and defending her dissertation in Spring 2019.
Basak holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and a M.A. in Cultural Studies from Istanbul Bilgi University. At George Mason, Basak has taught interdisciplinary courses in the Cornerstones program in School of Integrative Studies (formerly known as New Century College), Global Affairs, Cultural Studies and Women and Gender Studies. Upon graduating with her doctorate, Basak hopes to continue her career as a university educator and researcher.