Rethinking Health and the City

Melissa Toman (SIPA'22)
November 24, 2021

On August 5, Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul organized the second webinar of the Heritage of Healing Webinar Series. This webinar series was organized alongside the exhibition 'Finding a Cure in Istanbul' curated by Melis Bektaş and held in the Yaklaşım Tüneli, a metro evacuation tunnel at the heart of Istanbul between June 26-July 19. The exhibit explored the concept of healing, based on the issue of accessing health in a big city, from the time of cholera to the coronavirus. We are witnessing a moment that asks us to consider the right to health, the right to life and the right to the city altogether. By linking body and place, the exhibit thinks through what collective life imposes on us in terms of distance, intimacy and responsibilities. 

During the webinar, guest speakers Assoc. Prof. Ayşecan Terzioğlu, Prof. Chris Dole and Dr. Burçak Özlüdil, discussed the role of healthcare reform in Turkey’s secular nation-building process, the medical topography beyond hospitals, and the past and present of the institutions, actors, and ideologies during the epidemics since the 19th century. 

Dr. Burçak Özlüdil’s presentation addressed the relationship between health, business, and space, as well as the evolution of health and disease in regards to how we define and deal with them. She shared digital models regarding the evolving architectural design of hospitals during Ottoman rule and how citizens would have interacted with the establishments and their services. 

Next, Assoc. Prof. Ayşecan Terzioğlu discussed the similarities and differences in how epidemics were experienced in the late 19th and 20th centuries in the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic compared to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. She cited factors such as medicine and political ideologies, social inequalities, digitalization, and the rise of global neoliberalism. Her presentation provided an in-depth timeline of the evolution of biomedical healthcare in Turkey.

Finally, Prof. Chris Dole examined healing practices that fell outside of mainstream biomedical healthcare systems in Turkey’s history. He shared excerpts from his book ‘Healing Secular Life: Loss and Devotion in Modern Turkey’ and discussed why healers have encountered hostility and resistance from the public, as well as a history of exile by the State. 

To hear the full discussion, click here.