Just like the numerous valleys, streams and rivers that merge and feed a basin, the Center for Spatial Justice (Mekanda Adalet Dernegi- MAD) was born out of the accumulation of many different communications, experiences and questions. These different channels come together under the concept of spatial justice, which as both an analytical framework and a site of collective struggle stands at the center of our studies to make sense of the environment we live in and build a fairer, ecological, and democratic world.
A political-economic order that prioritizes construction/excavation increasingly effects all urban and rural spaces, social relationships and democratization. Contrary to this order, our collective envisioning centers life and local communities, grassroots movements and activists and their demands for historical, social and spatial justice. We made it our duty to produce, collect and share qualified, innovative and public knowledge on space through a transdisciplinary approach. MAD was officially founded on July 22, 2016 on the basis of works our members have been carrying out for many years within academia and urban/environmental movements.
One of the main driving factors led to the founding of MAD was the research collective, Beyond Istanbul, initiated by a group of action researchers who were using similar innovative methods and learning from the field. Some of these people, who focused on often ignored spatial realities in Istanbul and beyond, using methods such as walking and participatory research, later became among the founding members of MAD. Beyond Istanbul evolved into a research-based publishing programme and became our semi-academic quarterly journal.
Grassroots movements emerged in the aftermath of the 1999 Earthquake was another channel that shaped our story. The tenant earthquake-victims’ long struggle for the right to adequate housing following the Düzce Earthquake is an important inspiration to MAD. The construction of Hope Homes started in 2016 and the project became one of the ten finalists of World Habitat Awards in 2017. The architectural design of the project had been created by volunteers through a participatory process. Academics, students and professionals across different disciplines came together under Hope Studio where the experience of collective production and communication encouraged the emergence of long-lasting relationships such as MAD.
Another constitutive dynamic for MAD was spatial injustices resulting from urban transformation projects that accelerated particularly after June 2010 and initially targeted mainly working-class neighborhoods. The solidarity networks, spanning almost over ten years, established in tens of neighborhoods in Istanbul, Izmir and Izmit under the threat of urban transformation and without legal security significantly determined the areas where we work. The experience gained through involving in voluntary activities to give support in the areas of law, planning and design established the framework of MAD’s mission and principles of work.
In addition, the experience of Urban Political Ecology Summer School on the Roads of Istanbul, which brought conventional class discussions together with walks to different parts of Istanbul, is another collective production that contributed to founding of MAD. Every year since 2015, the summer school combines field experience and critical academic studies and aims to actualize its claim to sustain learning and researching communities outside the academia. It is one of the institutional building blocks of MAD as an institute focused on the production of public, innovative and qualified knowledge.
One of the main fields of study at MAD is to file, follow up and produce the knowledge of lawsuits on issues of spatial justice such as environmental protection, urban rights and discrimination against different communities. The background of this is the experience of our founding members, who have been working on the city and environmental lawsuits for many years and specializing in human rights law.
Among the channels contributed to the founding of MAD are investigative journalism and citizen monitoring initiatives which aim to expose the mega projects, the destructive impacts of their ecological and social footprints, the dispossession of communities, and the capital-power relationship networks behind them.