Articles Tagged with: Neighborhood Localization

Neighborhood Localization


Contrary to other groups of rural migrants to the Ottoman capital,32 the Arapkirlis were not transient, temporary, or seasonal migrants. They brought with them their family—mostly of a nuclear type (see chapter 4). Using the data of the 1885 census in Kasap ƒlyas, we have looked at the birth dates and
birthplaces of various family members of Arapkirli households in order to approximate the date of arrival in Istanbul of each and every Arapkirli living in the neighborhood. What we found was that their average length of stay was very long indeed. We were able to approximate the dates of arrival to Istanbul (though, of course, not always and not necessarily to Kasap ƒlyas) of only seventy-two natives of Arapkir living in 1885 in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle.
Twenty-seven of these seventy-two Arapkirlis (i.e., about 37.5 percent) had arrived before 1875 and had therefore spent, at the time of the census, more than ten years in the capital-city. The flow of Arapkirlis continued well into the twentieth century. Using the data of the last Ottoman population census of 1907 we found the approximate date of arrival to the capital of thirteen household heads born in Arapkir or its environs. Ten of them had been residing in Istanbul for eight years or more.
In 1885, 470 of the 925 (50.8 percent) Muslim inhabitants of Kasap ƒlyas had been born in Istanbul. The rate is lower for household heads, adult males for the most part. Sixty-two percent of the household heads living in Kasap ƒlyas had been born in the provinces (see table 3.1). In 1885 about one
Muslim resident of Kasap ƒlyas out of five, and almost one household head out of three had migrated from Arapkir and from its immediate surroundings. In the last Ottoman population census of 1907, 14.7 percent of the mahalle’s population and 22.2 percent of its household heads were born in or
around Arapkir.
Kasap ƒlyas was, and in a sense still is, deeply marked by the presence of these migrants from Arapkir and from its surroundings. This was always acknowledged in our interviews with elderly people from the mahalle. A second-generation migrant from Arapkir was elected headman (muhtar), served
for more than twenty years and is still remembered as the best headman the neighborhood had in the twentieth century (see the appendix).
As far as we can judge from the oral testimony of their children and grandchildren and of other elderly people who lived in the mahalle in the first half of the twentieth century, it appears that the first-generation Arapkir migrants who came to settle in our neighborhood belonged, for the most part, to the heterodox and liberal muslim Alevi sect, at that time (pejoratively)

qualified as Kızılbaœ. These Alevis, who were not mainstream Sunni Muslims, were spread over a large portion of central and eastern Anatolia. Cuinet estimates that, toward the end of the nineteenth century, the population of the district (kazâ) of Arapkir, as well as that of the neighboring districts of
E™in, Malatya, and Keban contained about one third of Alevis (Kizil-Bach, as he names them) and about 10 percent of ethnic Kurds, which he classifies apart from other Muslims, be they Sunni or Alevi.33
Just like their rural/peasant origins, however, neither the religious beliefs nor the ethnic origin of the Arapkirli seem to have caused friction or raised any serious problems of cohabitation within the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle. The aforementioned elected muhtar, for instance, was an Alevî whose father had
migrated from Arapkir, probably in the 1870s or 1880s.34 The muhtar himself had been born in Kasap ƒlyas—in Ispanakçı Viranesi, to be more precise. “The Arapkirlis and my husband’s family had been living in this mahalle and in the Ispanakçı Viranesi for three centuries,” declared his widow in an interview in an attempt at bridging the gap between the assumed provincialism of her husband’s
family, and a well-justified sense of local identity within Istanbul.35
Kasap ƒlyas was a neighborhood where we lived with the Alevis in perfect harmony, especially when you think of the Ispanakçı Viranesi….We had excellent relationships with them, and never called them Kızılbaœ….My mother had given help to many women that lived in the Virane…they were poor and honest people…the men there sold fruits, melons and watermelons with a cart…later, some of them became taxi drivers,” declared another of our elderly local informants.
Clearly, the suggestion is that life in Istanbul, and the tolerance shown to them in Kasap ƒlyas had somehow redeemed the provincialism and the religious heterodoxy of the Arapkirlis of his childhood years.36 “They all came from the East but they nevertheless lived in perfect harmony with the neighborhood…most of them were fruit and vegetable sellers, they worked in the vegetable gardens down there and gathered and sold the products of the bostans” another elderly former inhabitant of Kasap ƒlyas told us.37 All of these informants were referring to the situation prevailing in the 1930s and 1940s as personal eyewitnesses, and to even earlier periods, of which they were informed by hearsay.
The Arapkir-born population of the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle in 1885 was almost evenly divided between males and females (72 men and 68 women).
This is yet another indication about the type of migrants who had been coming from the region of Arapkir. Males of working age were not the only ones involved. The high rate of regional endogamy that prevailed suggests that family and permanent migration had always been prevalent. That couples were formed or reunited after the initial move of one of the members to Istanbul is not to be ignored. The group of Arapkirlis living in Kasap ƒlyas in 1885 includes cases of single men who had married women born in Istanbul after having settled down in Kasap ƒlyas as well as cases of men who had married a fellow-citizen and had their children once in Istanbul.
There were in all 62 Arapkir-born and married male household heads living in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle in 1885. Forty-six of these male Arapkirlis (74.2%) were married to women born in the same town/village, and the rest, that is, 16 of them, had been wed to women born in Istanbul. The picture
is reversed, however, when we look at the children born to these couples.
Among the forty six regionally endogamous Arapkirli couples living in Kasap ƒlyas in 1885, thirty five had children. The majority of the children, however, had been born in Istanbul. Only nine of these thirty five couples had moved from Arapkir with their children whereas in twenty six cases the Arapkirli
wives had given birth to their children in the capital.
We shall examine more closely the family structures that prevailed among this group of migrants. Intermarriage seems to have been rather unusual, at least for the first- and second-generation migrants from Arapkir. This is further exemplified by the table showing the distribution of the birthplaces of
spouses living in Kasap ƒlyas in 1885 (see chapter 4), and confirmed by oral testimonies.
As we have already stressed, the Arapkirlis of the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle had another very important characteristic in 1885: they all lived very close to each other. The mahalle covered an area crossed by a total of fourteen streets and blind alleys. 117 out of a total of 140 people born in Arapkir (i.e., 83.5%)
were packed into a single location, the Ispanakçı Viranesi and into the small street leading to it (Ispanakçı Viranesi soka™ı). The same street and plot also housed 10 of the 31 people who were born in the districts surrounding Arapkir (see table 3.1). Three quarters of all of the Arapkirlis living in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle were settled in the land where the charred remnants of Ispanakçızâde Mustafa Paœa’s konak had stood just about a century ago (see the map).
The Virane, as it was often called, was a rather crowded area. Two hundred seventy two people lived there in 1885, that is, almost 30 percent of the neighborhood population. More than half of the Virane’s inhabitants had been born in or around Arapkir. There was, to our knowledge, no other community of the same type within the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle, that is, no other identifiable group of co-locals sharing an identical religious/ethnic background and living in close proximity within the neighborhood. Of the 56 household heads who had been born in Arapkir (see table 3.1), no less than 47 lived in the Virane in 1885, which contained in all 75 households. Four other households were headed by men born in districts near Arapkir. More than two thirds of household heads established in this specific area (51 out of 75) were therefore Arapkirlis.
Besides, some of the houses situated in the Ispanakçi Viranesi were apparently functioning almost exclusively as a sort of home for the newcomers from Arapkir. In the house at 3 Ispanakçı Viranesi, for instance, lived no less than 15 people in 1885, among which were a few single males but also some small nuclear households. These people had all been born in or around Arapkir. Some of them had moved in this house upon their arrival to the mahalle, and then moved out within a short period of time, which induces us to conclude that this house must have functioned as a sort of transiting
premise, a temporary welcoming area for the poorest or most destitute of the Arapkirlis who came to Kasap ƒlyas. Other houses in the same area were also being rented to the Arapkirlis alone.
A patent example is provided by the houses in Ispanakçı Viranesi that belonged to one Yeœilin Mehmet Efendi.38 This person did not reside in the neighborhood, as he does not appear in the 1885 census documents, but, according to the muhtar’s property lists, he owned no less than ten houses, large and small, all of them situated within the Ispanakçı Viranesi. In these ten houses lived, at the time of the census, no less than 45 people, all of them Arapkirlis. One third of the migrants from Arapkir living in the Virane were therefore paying rent to Yeœilin Mehmed Efendi, the absentee landlord who made a living by renting out his run-down houses to the poor and needy migrants.39
The Arapkirli community living in the Ispanakçı Viranesi showed, not surprisingly, a very high degree of regional endogamy. Eighty-five percent (40 out of 47) of the Arapkir-born male household heads living in the Virane were married to women also born in Arapkir. This rate of endogamy was only fifty
nine percent for the province-born household heads of the mahalle in general.
It is certainly the presence of so many migrant Arapkirlis that gave Ispanakçı Viranesi its poor and highly provincial character within the mahalle.
61.4 percent of the inhabitants of the Virane had indeed been born in the provinces of the empire, as opposed to only 49 percent for the population of Kasap ƒlyas as a whole, as well as more than 80 percent of its household heads (63.8 percent for the whole of Kasap ƒlyas). The Istanbul born were a small minority in the Virane, and most of these were children of the Arapkirlis anyway, second-generation Arapkirlis themselves. Another of our elderly informants from Kasap ƒlyas gave us a colorful description of what the Ispanakçı Viranesi and its migrant settlers must have meant for the mahalle toward the end of the nineteenth century:
…They were all poor people…they sold vegetables, worked as street-porters here and there, or carried sand and gravel on their backs from the wharf…not only single young men, but also whole families were living in the Ispanakçı Viranesi, whole families that had been there for more than ten or twenty years…the houses in the Virane were all small, single storey and run down…people had come there from places in the East such as Malatya, Arapkir….”40

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