The city has become the site of global movements and class struggles in the past decade. Since the Gezi uprising in the summer of 2013 in Istanbul, grassroots movements are emerging from the space of the neighborhood and the megacity in response to failures of urban governance at the level of metropolitan and local municipalities. Based on a five-month ethnographic study in a central district of Istanbul, I use participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, and media and document analysis to explore what common ground can be found in the context of: 1) official city assemblies of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality; 2) activist-led urban resistance assemblies; and 3) grassroots mobilizations in an urban poor neighborhood by the historic city walls. From Henri Lefebvre (2009) to David Harvey (2012), the “right to the city” framework needs to be reworked to ground the city and the grassroots (Castells 1983) as the emergent site of class struggles as well as class solidarities. Following Ida Susser and Stéphane Tonnelat’s (2013) typology of the three urban commons, this paper explores how ethnographically grounded accounts can be given from the specificity and generality of urban struggles, based on perspectives by expert and non-expert subjects, including residents, activists, reporters, planners, and officials. I argue for attending to the small-scale of the neighborhood and the large-scale of the megacity to build and make sense of urban social movements from the bottom-up.
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