Urban and Urbanization

Counterfactual future-thinking

In this article, I follow two urban experts, a Turkish construction site manager and a Kurdish foreman, working in Taksim 360, one of Istanbul’s first state-led urban transformation projects still in construction since 2006. Homing in on the protracted landscape of construction, I am concerned with how urban experts in Taksim 360, who do not entirely concur with the seemingly determined trajectory of urban transformation in Tarlabaşı, put inevitability to work. I ask: what makes urban experts stay with a project that might not materialize? The answer lies in what I call “counterfactual future-thinking”: a way of articulating the future in relation to what might have happened—an articulation that comes particularly handy when the gap between inevitable visions and everyday experiences of urban projects seems irreconcilable. Counterfactual future-thinking allows urban experts to navigate the tensions between suspension and inevitability. It offers a way to urban experts to bridge their quotidian experiences of urban projects with their future visions, which become hazier in their attainability. I argue that counterfactuals emanating from protraction are lenses through which we can understand what inevitability actually does, rather than dismiss it as a farse disconnected from urban expertise on the ground.

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Volume 41 Issue 4

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