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Derya Özkan: Securitization from the Urban to the Global - NATO Summit in Istanbul on 28-29 June 2004 as a “State of Exception”


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held its 16th summit on June 28-29, 2004 in Istanbul. This entailed multiple preparations in advance of the summit: State security forces were getting ready for the challenging task of providing a secure urban environment for the 62 prominent world leaders including George Bush; while antagonist groups were issuing press  releases, demonstrating on the streets to protest NATO, organizing campaigns titled such as “GELME BUSH” [BUSH, DON’T COME]. The city was in a state of emergency.

Possible security measures were already discussed in the media months in advance of the meetings: 24000 security personnel would be on duty 18 hours a day on average. The CIA reportedly requested that planes that get off course be hit immediately (Tercüman 29 April 2004). Hundreds of people were arrested and held in custody until the  end of the meetings for being “potential” security threats (Istanbul Valiliği, 28 June 2004). The security records of the personnel working at the hotels hosting the leaders, as well as of ordinary  people living in the district the summit was going to take place, were subject to official investigation. The summit also caused a suspension of everyday life all over the city. From the  night of June 26th to the morning of the 30th, urban public transportation was discontinued on many routes.

During the 16th NATO Summit in Istanbul, law and legality were thus temporarily in suspension. Through the imposition of extra-judicial exceptional powers by the state on the population, the proclaimed rule of law was violated. This was a “state of exception,” where sovereign powers, that are the law, might as well act outside the law. An unusual extension of power did not quite fit to the announcement made by the Governor’s office that “security” and “freedom” were the two keywords in preparing the city of Istanbul for the summit (Istanbul
Valiliği, 30 June 2004).

In this paper, I discuss the days of the 16th NATO summit in Istanbul by referring to the theory of governmentality by Michel Foucault and the conception of the state of exception by Giorgio Agamben. The strategy of “securitization” emp here had implications for both urban and global scales. It signalled the emergence of the state of exception in the post-9/11 world—emblematized in the image of George W. Bush with the neo baroque seaside mosque in Ortaköy in the background. Due to the temporary disruption of established urban norms, however, it also suggested potentials for change in power relations in the city and beyond.

About the Author

Derya Özkan studied architecture before she went on to work as an editor for journals of architecture and urban studies. She acted as the Editor-in-Chief of the Istanbul journal, after which she started her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. In 2008, she completed a dissertation titled “The Misuse Value of Space: Spatial Practices and the Production of Space in Istanbul” in which she discussed how everyday spatial practices of the inhabitants in Istanbul complicate the normative definitions of the production of space in the city. She is currently working on her postdoctoral research project on “spaces of migration” where she focuses on the phenomenon of the “Bahnhofsviertel” (the main train station district) in European cities. She has been teaching at the Institute for European Ethnology at the University of Munich since September 2008.

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