draft statement

Religious Space and Social Identity

I find myself fascinated with extremes of religion and the galvanic power of such extremity to drive politics and mass movements in multiple forms. I’m not interested in religious space as worship space—the architecture of the church or mosque. I’m interested in [religious] space as a medium of social coherence. This space is not necessarily local in nature; it may not be a place in the physical, concrete sense.

While group identity transcends local space—groups can coalesce across great distances via mass media; they can be fluctuating and mobile—place (and space) remains (or may remain) highly important to the construction and maintenance of identity. But what role does space actually play? How does space heighten/moderate/inform social identity? My primary interest is in collective identity, and while religious identity does not have to be a part of a collective social identity, it very often is.

Religious Terrorism as social expression

Consider identity politics mobilized at a global scale but with local impact: terrorism is a manifestation of identity that plays out in real space and registers itself against the built environment. Terrorism is a means of social expression that makes something visible—that (arguably) creates agency through a public, violent act. I seek to relocate agency through architecture, to make visible that which otherwise lacks voice. I believe that architecture can be transformative. I also acknowledge that architecture occurs through concrete spatial relationships. I want to develop a discursive architecture that addresses the spatial dimension of identity construction through the production of specific conditions.

Istanbul and its identity crisis

I am planning to draw on Istanbul as a site for my thesis investigation. The underlying theme of my interest is social identity, so often characterized by difference. Group identity remains a persistent question for Istanbul and its residents, and often seems to present itself in dual terms: past and present, east and west, religious and secular, rural and cosmopolitan, conservative and liberal. The impulse to define identity based on otherness is inherently problematic for a city that is, literally, both European and Asian.

The idea of common identity, of Turkishness, has been present in Turkey since its forming and was a necessary construction allowing it to emerge as a modern nation state. Today the constructed identity of the Turk is increasingly challenged. It is my goal to mobilize architecture in the construction and acocmodation of multiple identities.

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