A Kiosk for the Headscarf: How Religion Changes the Public Space

A map of the kiosk area Another map of the kiosk area
Handmade map of the area with the kiosk

Izmir is a modern and neoliberal Turkish metropolis that stands out against the political and civil conservatism of Istanbul. In its districts, during the last decade, many urban areas have become the scene for the face-off of the Turkish historical laicism and the Islamic renaissance. My aim is to show the influence of this face-off on the organization of public space around an urban campus. The object of this study is a non-institutionalized re-adaptation of a kiosk located in front of the campus gate, whose windows have been obscured.

The purpose of the kiosk is to help all the Muslim women to remove and don their headscarf in front of a mirror, unobserved by the general public. In 2009 in Turkey the headscarf was forbidden in every school and state building, while allowed in private and public places. The use of the kiosk reveals two realities, one secular and one religious, that here as elsewhere still have not reached a conclusive synthesis. But in this specific case women have found a way out by re-adaptating the public space around the campus.

The article presents the kiosk as a physical and semantic frontier between two social areas ruled by different habits and laws. Then it focuses on the perception and the usage of this public space by different, potentially antagonist, groups. Finally it highlights how re-appropriation of the public space for religious practice revolutionizes the form and the function, as well as the significance of the area.