New Food Practices in Istanbul in the Aftermath of the Syrian Civil War: Syrian Restaurants and Collective Refugee Kitchens


For the last couple of years in Istanbul, spaces and daily life in the neighbourhoods where Syrian refugees have settled and established their solidarity networks in are being recreated. Syrian restaurants and collective refugee kitchens act both as instruments for recreating space through the cultural identities, habits and practices of refugees, and also as the tangible indicators of these. For the refugee groups, these food-related spaces are not only places to work at and sustain their economic existence; they also act as stations where they meet, socialise and expand their solidarity networks. For the people of Istanbul, Syrian cuisine is merely a novelty, a touristic object and a source of different tastes. However, for Syrians, making food is their principal way of showing their culture, feeling empowered, and thus developing a sense of emotional attachment and belonging with the place, and being able to resettle. To discuss this argument, the Syrian “refugee restaurants” located in Fatih district and the “collective kitchens” located in the neighbourhoods of Okmeydanı and Yeldeğirmeni, which have managed to survive thanks to the solidarity economy, will be the topic of this paper.

The research on the Syrian restaurants in Fatih consists of in-depth interviews with the owners and employees of 32 restaurants, confectioneries, shops and cafés; and a field study, carried out from August to October 2016, which observes and maps street densities and behavioural practices. On-site observations and interviews were conducted with the Woman to Woman Refugee Kitchen in Okmeydanı and the Komşu Kafe Collective in Yeldeğirmeni. These interviews focus on the migration stories of the refugees, how and why they came to Istanbul, the problems they encountered in urban and social life, and their ways of associating with the place. The interviews were conducted to find answer to how these kitchens have steered societal and spatial transformation. The comments obtained from analysing all the interviews constitute the field study of this paper.

Studies on immigrant and refugee cultures[1] mostly emphasise the potential of food in bringing communities together. It is generally pointed out in the literature that food acts as an important instrument for migrated communities in rebuilding their identity, redeveloping a sense of belonging with the place, maintaining cultural production and solidarity. When people change location and try to settle in different cultural geographies, they attach themselves more to their own identities, and to their food as way of showing their identities (Law, 2001). Therefore, there are studies that claim food is the most efficient instrument for bringing culture together, especially in refugee/immigrant communities. Lisa Law (2001), who studied the food of Filipino immigrants in Hong Kong from a spatial perspective, asserts that Filipinos have a very strong sense of national belonging and solidarity that they do not even feel back at home. Filipino immigrants recreate a sense of “home” in Hong Kong through food and emotional memory. Similar other studies state that refugee communities that hang on to their cultural pasts and roots with a sense of belonging create their national cuisines more clearly and strongly (Berasco, 2002; Wilk, 2002). Ultimately, it seems possible to talk of a diaspora that can establish relationships among its members in a foreign society through food, and gather around a sense of belonging, national identity and cultural solidarity.

On the other hand, there are studies arguing that migrant communities have the power to consciously design their identities in order to sustain their existence in the economic market instead of being bound by and staying inside the constant spaces determined by collective memory, culture and tradition (Ferrero 2002; Çağlar 1999; Counihan, 2002). Sylvia Ferrero (2002) considers ethnic food not only as an expression of social and cultural identity but also as a force on its own that enables social change. The Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles reinforce ethnic identities as well as providing immigrants with job opportunities, and increasing their financial and social power. In her Mc Kebab study, Ayşe Çağlar (1999) argues that the Turks in Germany had the power to form their own identities in the kebab business. According to Çağlar, kebab is part of the Ausländerfrage (the question of foreigners) discourse in Germany, and is used as a metaphor against xenophobia. In other words, döner kebab symbolises not only the Turks but all foreigners. These studies are significant both in terms of examining different initiatives that food creates, and in terms of showing that food is a powerful agent that can transform “situations”. Other studies on food and space/place relationship deal with how food creates spaces/places/geographies (place-making), and its political initiatives (like disadvantaged groups creating public space through food) (Dusselier 2002; Costa and Besio, 2011; Blake, 2017; Law, 2001).

Furthermore, through this production, food and culinary culture can be maintained as intangible cultural heritage. It is observed that the Syrian refugee communities studied as part of this paper have recreated their cultural formations and the Syrian cuisine as an intangible cultural heritage by associating with what is local, and by providing opportunities for meaningful common, collective practices for their communities in the neighbourhoods they have settled in. Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage[2] was adopted on 17 October 2003 at the 32nd session of the General Conference held in Paris by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). According to the Convention, “the ‘intangible cultural heritage’ means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage”.

The purposes of the Convention are described as “safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage; ensuring respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned; raising awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage, and of ensuring mutual appreciation thereof; providing for international cooperation and assistance”. Furthermore, the Convention particularly stresses “that the processes of globalization and social transformation, alongside the conditions they create for renewed dialogue among communities, also give rise, as does the phenomenon of intolerance, to grave threats of deterioration, disappearance and destruction of the intangible cultural heritage, in particular owing to a lack of resources for safeguarding such heritage”. It recognizes that “…in particular indigenous communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals play an important role in the production, safeguarding, maintenance and re-creation of the intangible cultural heritage, thus helping to enrich cultural diversity and human creativity”. The Convention considers “the invaluable role of the intangible cultural heritage as a factor in bringing human beings closer together and ensuring exchange and understanding among them”.

The intangible cultural heritage defined in paragraph 1 of the Convention is listed as “oral traditions and expressions, including language …; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship”. Culinary cultures and traditional foods are considered part of these. In 2013, the Turkish Coffee Culture and Tradition[3], and in 2016, the yufka bread [4]of Turkey, alongside its counterparts in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan under the “Flatbread making and sharing culture” title were represented in the intangible cultural heritage list. Although being included in this list and being officially registered are quite prestigious matters, there are some that argue that UNESCO’s officially recognizing certain cuisines will bring forth cultural fossilization.[5] However, the definition in the Convention does not focus on preserving the intangible cultural heritage as a sacred thing without any change; it rather emphasizes on it existing by being transformed and recreated through geographies and times, and on the contribution it will make to cultural diversity as a sustainable and creative knowledge and practice area: “This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”. Therefore, it should be noted that the Syrian food and culture examined here is recreated in a glocal plurality through new interactions.

It can be said that culinary culture acts as an important intermediary for refugees to develop a sense of belonging with the new place, and to become empowered in terms of culture. Additionally, diaspora communities frequently lead the way for building a national identity through food and culinary culture[6]. In this way, food as an intangible cultural heritage becomes an efficient instrument for building imagined communities and forming strong ties among its members.[7] So, what is the role of Syrian food in getting culturally together and creating a national identity; and how do the Syrians adapt into the daily life by claiming space through food?

Syrian Restaurants in Fatih[8]

The northwest gate of the Fatih Mosque opens to Malta Street, a street filled with the smells of coffee, spices, kebab and bread, which has become a Syrian marketplace where cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods with Arabic packaging are sold by Turkish and Syrian shops.

On the weekends, this place is filled with Syrians from many other districts such as Başakşehir, Esenyurt, Zeytinburnu. Malta has become their meeting point (Personal Interview, 27 September 2016).

Continue towards south from Malta Street, and you will encounter various Syrian restaurants, mostly fast-food themed, on Akşemsettin and Akdeniz streets. One of them, Saruja Restaurant, differs from the rest with its homemade dishes. The owner of the restaurant narrates his experiences in a meeting as follows:

When I was in Damascus, I was working in the computer sector. When the war broke out, I moved to Dubai and established a business, but I failed. Then I moved to Istanbul and made plans to open the homemade food restaurant that I was dreaming of. Everyone around me asked if I was mad. They suggested that I served Turkish homemade dishes. But one night, I decided to open a Syrian restaurant and I took a risk. All my Syrian customers are grateful to me, even Turkish people started coming. Thank God, we have been successful.[9]

Stories of Settling

The Syrian interviewees, most of who are from Damascus and Aleppo, say that they began to experience the effects of the war in 2012. They say that afterwards, they had to migrate first to countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Libya; however, as they could not sustain their lives in those countries and as the economic conditions were better in Turkey, they then moved here. In comparison to other Muslim countries, they think Turkey is the most suitable country in terms of living and working conditions, and say that they can establish businesses and settle here even though they do not have official work and residence permits, that somehow the local authorities show them tolerance.

Most of the interviewees have left their homeland and families behind and arrived at Turkey by passing through airport border controls and check points with their passports. Some of them told us that they had to enter Turkey illegally through land borders, or that they arrived at the city of Mersin via sea. The majority of them temporarily settled in cities like Ankara, Eskişehir, İzmir and Bursa to find their relatives who came to Turkey before them. However, the last stop for all of them for living and working was Istanbul due to economic conditions and social activities. As a global-cosmopolitan city, Istanbul offers more job opportunities as well as letting Syrians be invisible in daily life. In addition, Istanbul is seen more as a European city, especially by the Syrians from Damascus. Many European countries have the Christian religion and culture, and therefore were not a choice for the Arab Muslim Syrians. Despite the ambiguous legal conditions, which are both advantageous and disadvantageous at the same time, living in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, became the most unifying factor due to Islamic rituals. The Islamic rituals and the Muslim community in Fatih, particularly the Fatih Mosque as a holy symbol, attracted Syrians with relatively higher income to live and establish their businesses in this area.

Islam is everywhere in Fatih. We do not feel comfortable in Beşiktaş or Kadıköy; but here, the supporters of AKP (Justice and Development Party) like us; Muslims are everywhere (Personal Interview, 10 October 2016).

 Claiming the Urban Space

Most of the shop owners who also used to work in the food sector in Syria find Malta Street to be quite profitable and rewarding due to its proximity to the Fatih Mosque. This is why the Syrian investors offered to pay double for the local shops on Malta Street and bought them. As a result, within the last two years, the places here have changed ownership.

It can be said that the food economy and dynamism here is also supported by the Islamic public life and Islamic capitalism. However, the increased real estate values in Fatih due to the rapid changing of ownership, furthered the ostracising reactions from the Turks. Yet, contrary to Malta Street, which is closed to vehicle traffic, the streets of Akdeniz and Akşemsettin host almost equal numbers of Turkish and Syrian restaurants. As many Syrians prefer living in this area due to cultural reasons, many Syrian restaurants chose the ground floors of the buildings on these streets to open their businesses. All in all, we can say that the cafes and restaurants run by Syrians act as places of solidarity; and help recreate and claim urban spaces.

Towards a Common Space for Turks and Syrians?

It is possible to propose that these restaurants have begun to form an interface between the Turks and the Syrians, who share many common features in terms of culinary culture. The fact that in the last year, Turkish people constituted one fourth of these restaurants’ total number of customers gives hope that more of them may come in the future.

Obviously, language is a significant barrier against creating a commonality; however, it is known that many Syrian shop owners are trying to learn Turkish. Several Turkish shop owners, on the other hand, are trying to learn Arabic and communicate. Despite these bonding efforts, nationalist and ostracising discourse over food can be encountered. Although Syrian food and its ingredients are procured from Turkey, and even though kebab, kibbeh, meze and other common dishes are not exclusive to Syria but come from Mesopotamia and the southeast region as a whole, Turks are trying to assert that they are not like the Arabic and Kurdish people through their efforts to differentiate themselves over food:

Syrian food is heavy, greasy, hot and very spicy; also, they are not hygienic. I would not eat at those places (Personal interview, 25 October 2016).

An old coffee shop owner accuses Syrians of being “traitors” as “they ran away from the war and left their country to enemies instead of defending it”; based on this perspective, he continues: “They drink their Espresso based Syrian coffee 10-15 times a day, and they claim it comes from Brazil; it cannot be that cheap. All of them are liars and frauds…”

It can be said that while the places of encounter create bonding and new partnerships, they are at the same time bringing forth segregation and exclusion.

Re-establishing the Syrian Community

Food, its production and the places of its production are important instruments in rebuilding the Syrian community. Food sector is not only enabling communication within the community, it also helps develop solidarity. Social media plays a significant role in this, as well. However, even within this community, it is possible to encounter ethnic segregation discourses and conflicts between the people of Damascus and the people of Aleppo. The people of Damascus accuse the ones from Aleppo of being barbarians. Turks also think the people from Aleppo are aggressive and quarrelsome. Still, this separation, based on ethnic and regional differences, does not seem to have caused a spatial segregation, yet. On the other hand, class differences are more evident. The restaurant owners and employers living in Fatih can own houses as well as being able to pay rents changing between 1,500 and 2,000 TRY a month. Despite Islamic brotherhood and economic power unities, even these people state that they faced discrimination while they were searching for houses in Fatih. They think because they are foreigners and are in a difficult situation, realtors refuse to show them houses or that they only show them the more expensive ones.

We did the same thing to Iraqis. When they came to our country, we showed them the more expensive houses. God is punishing us (Personal Interview, 23 September 2016).

Syrian workers that live in farther areas like Başakşehir and Esenyurt, or share houses in Fatih with 15 other people can only afford 500TRY a month for rents, and are unable to find time for social life or education. However, they are under the protection of their employers who are relatively in better conditions.

The Syrians that we saw in the city and in workplaces during the research period were mostly men. The fact that there were no female employees in the places we conducted our interviews, and the fact that women are not allowed to work, makes us wonder what the role of women is in this process of resettling. In this regard, the refugee kitchen, which was founded as a women’s collective, provides an important example in terms of Syrian women’s food production and their solidarity after the migration.

Collective Refugee Kitchens[10]

Woman to Woman Refugee Kitchen (Kadın Kadına Mülteci Mutfağı) is a refugee kitchen run by women and founded under the Okmeydanı Association for Social Cooperation and Solidarity (Okmeydanı Sosyal Yardımlaşma and Dayanışma Derneği), which is an association based on neighbourhood solidarity and works for overcoming the societal problems in the neighbourhood through solidarity. In 2015, when the association had just turned one, the Syrian refugees who settled into the neighbourhood due to its central location and the ease of finding temporary jobs have applied to the association to receive help from this neighbourhood and solidarity network. With the help of the volunteers, as well, the association provided food and provisions to the refugees, and supported them with regards to their housing and education problems; and in doing so, developed a mutual acquaintance and trust, especially with the Syrian women applied to the association. At the end of this process, as a result of the Syrian women’s wish to “not get help, but be useful”, the idea of a collective kitchen emerged. The food items that 17 women decided to prepare together were determined as pickles and jams. The production process that began at their houses then continued in a space that was rented with the money collected by the association and volunteers. This new place consists of an industrial kitchen, a meeting and play area designed by volunteer architects. During this time, the collective accepted the funding of an NGO, and began to earn money first by selling the jams they made at cafes, cooperatives and solidarity charity sales with the support they received through the alternative food network. The collective then started catering at meetings. The money earned at this kitchen, which continues its existence thanks to the support of the association, constitutes the Syrian women’s income.

Although the income does not cover all the needs of each woman, it can be enough for their bills and domestic needs. The women acknowledge that the money they earn empowers them, and helps them hold on to life; but more importantly, the power of working and having this solidarity is very important to them. None of these women have worked before, but they say that women in Syria can work at various jobs, that they can get education and have professions. However, working at a restaurant is frowned upon and not accepted by the society; it is a job to be ashamed of. Therefore, the married ones had to get their husbands’ permission and had to convince them for letting them work. The women in the collective call on other Syrian women to take the initiative, to work and gain their economic independence. They say that working, making food and having solidarity make resettling easier, and are beneficial and healing for leaving the traumas of the war behind.

Komşu Kafe Collective (Komşu Kafe Kolektifi) is a kitchen founded with the civil initiative of educated refugees with the participation of Turkish citizen collective members. Unlike the hipster cafes opened in the neighbourhood of Yeldeğirmeni in recent years, Komşu Kafe is not a snazzy cafe run on capital; it is a common space trying to survive through solidarity economy, which can barely afford the economic cycle of the cafe and its workers. The cooks, some of whom are actually engineers, some journalists, who had to leave their country due to the negative effects of the global war, managed to devise an alternative economy model and create their own tactics against the general strategy of the global capitalism. In this regard, Komşu Kafe is a shelter, a refugee solidarity kitchen and an alternative economy model for the people who have been displaced from their homes. In addition, the kitchen has become the global kitchen of the whole city of Istanbul, not just the quarter, neighbourhood or the district it is located in. The cafe serves various affordable vegan dishes. The collective organises dinner nights based mostly on the cuisines of war-torn geographies, the Middle East and also some other global cuisines as they “attract people”, and announces them through their social media accounts. Most of the time when it makes its “the food is ready” announcement, the people line up at the door; and everyone pays for their dishes an amount that they themselves see fit. As this is outside the conventional economic strategy, sometimes people abuse it; and sometimes they see it as a charity kitchen that gives away free food. Although it took time for people to understand the solidarity economy, and for collective production and consumption to take root in the cultural habits, the cafe has settled in the neighbourhood. In this common public space, which is the Komşu Kafe Collective, the customers can serve their own tea, move around freely and sit wherever they want as if they were in their homes. Customers meet and chat with new people while sitting around the same table. Through its use of space and work mentality, the cafe constantly reminds people of commonality, solidarity and trust. Despite the “anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical, anti-imperialist” motto on its walls, from time to time, the cafe unfortunately gets the reaction “Syrians, go home!” from the people of the neighbourhood. From an outside perspective, the collective can be seen as having a political stance and struggle, but the primary worry of these people, who are trying to survive and resettle in a place, is to earn their keep.

Conclusion Discussions

The Ambiguity of the Law

As Turkey signed the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, which define the status and geographical conditions of refugees, its responsibility for protecting refugees is limited to the asylum-seekers from European countries. The refugees and asylum-seekers from non-European countries can stay in Turkey only temporarily, and they can be protected by the government only under the temporary protection status. This process lasts until they can get refugee status or receive residence permit from another country.  The Temporary Protection Regulation dated October 2014 only grants Syrians the right to get an identity card and a number to receive health and education services. However, due to the complicated bureaucratic procedures, it takes months to get the identity cards on which their work permits depend.

Temporary Protection Status or the State of Exception

Syrians are experiencing a state of exception (Agamben, 2005) in which migration and suspension have become the rule in their lives due to the uncertain/ambiguous conditions of the temporary protection status and being labelled as foreigners. These refugees or illegal immigrants are deprived of citizenship rights. In January 2016, visa requirement began to be imposed on Syrian citizens. During this period, the open-door policy banned illegal border crossing for the displaced Syrians. Additionally, for security reasons, the southeast border was reinforced with walls to enable better control and surveillance.

This limbo that Syrians are forced to live in can be named the “zone of ambiguity”. As Agamben puts it, this is a camp (Agamben, 1998), and exceptions exist within this zone. According to Agamben (2001, p. 29), although the sovereign is part of the system as the order of law grants it the authority to declare state of emergency and to suspend the law (rule), it is at the same time outside the system as a decision maker. The exception sticks out as the unwanted, as the danger within the homogenous environment regulated by the law. It can therefore be said that exceptions[11] determine the limits of the law. The sovereign at this point, declares a state of emergency, and begins to disable and defuse the exception and what it is that creates it. It suspends the law both to protect the law itself, and to strip away the constitutional rights of the exceptions and to neutralise them. Law continues to exist but becomes invalid for those that are deemed exceptions. In this way, law is protected from any damage, and the exceptional case becomes no longer a danger; however, the state of exception becomes the juridical will itself. In other words, the state of emergency becomes the norm. As one of the times and places where the exception, i.e. the state of emergency, became the rule itself, Agamben talks about the Nazi Germany, the Holocaust and the violence and crimes happened at the concentration camps. By being used as an instrument of exclusion, exception begins to expand into every part of life, and starts to turn into a situation where the rule includes the exception by excluding it (inclusive exclusion). As a result, the rule (law, norm) does not apply to the exception, but its validity over the exception continues through bypassing the exception. In other words, relation of exception emerges as “the type of marginal relationship where the inclusion of something is achieved only by excluding it”. The person who is left in this ambiguous space of exception, and is being threatened here, is abandoned by the law. Excluded by the law, the banned person becomes someone who is deprived of their citizenship rights which they gained through birth and jus soli; one that is stuck in an ambiguous threshold between human and animal, inside and outside, forest and city. This space, this area is where the natural, biological life (zoe)[12] enters the political area; where politics focus on human bodies; and where, according to Agamben, “homo sacer” – the sacred man – emerges and “bare life” is lived.

In his camp theory, which he explains by talking about a wide range of camps from the first colonial camps in history to the Nazi concentration camps, Agamben points to the structure of the space of exception, and talks about how the state of emergency created by the colonial wars expanded to include all the civilians, and how the Nazis, who came to power in 1933, turned the state of exception into the juridical will itself when they indefinitely suspended the fundamental rights. The common feature of the camps, as Agamben puts it, is that they emerge as “places created when the state of exception becomes the rule” (Agamben, 2001, p. 220). For the sovereign, what is exceptional is uncanny; and when the measures taken against this uncanny, dangerous situation increase, and when they become the rule or the norm of life, camp becomes permanent. Still, camp is outside the “normal”, usual order of law. This is where the paradox of camp begins. Camp stays “outside” when it emerges as a space that is excluded by the law, where the exception is subdued; an extraordinary space with its own norms. Yet, as Hobbes puts it, it is situated right in the middle of the city, where the city unravels.

Leaving the Camp and Gaining Power

In Agamben’s camp theory, the ones left as exceptions are passive, bio political objects deprived of civil rights. Although the ambiguity they are in becomes the norm of life, they still cannot actively participate. Nonetheless, camp can sometimes turn into a space of resistance, too. In other words, the objectified bodies can transform into subjects/citizens with power through various types of resistance. Resistance can be made possible by escaping the exposed situation, event or the place, by choosing death or by rebelling, and creating a new living space.

In this regard, despite the ambiguous conditions determined by the bio political power, food production can help refugees/immigrants get out of the state of legal uncertainty they are in, and provide them the opportunity to create a living space again. Although they do not have work permits, the refugees use the ambiguous conditions of this state of uncertainty to their advantage; they open businesses and try to earn money and continue their lives by using the loopholes in the law. This shows that an opportunity of resistance can be created within the state of exception that they are in. To put it differently, by maintaining their culinary culture, and by transforming and reproducing it, the Syrian refugees are fighting for their lives and their existence. The restaurants and the collective kitchens they open give them the opportunity to earn economic and cultural capital, and help them survive by building their own founding powers, and elude the defined areas of the dominant power. The Syrian food culture is not only an important part of the process of rebuilding the Syrian diaspora’s national identity, sense of belonging and the concept of community; it also leads to establishing businesses, surviving, claiming urban spaces and resettling.

Translator: Fatma Özhan


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Agamben, G. (2005) State of Exception, Chicago: The University of Chicago.

Belasco, W. (2002) “Food Matters: Perspectives on an Emerging Field”. Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies. Editors: Belasco, W., Scranton, P. New York: Routledge.

Blake, M. K. (2017) “Building an unjust foodscape: shifting governance regimes, urban place making and the making of Chinese food as ordinary in Hong Kong”, Local Environment, DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2017.1328674

Costa, L. R., Besio, K. (2011) “Eating Hawai'i: local foods and place-making in Hawai'i Regional Cuisine”, Social and Cultural Geography, 12 (8), 839-854.

Counihan, C. M. (2002) “Food as Women’s voice in the San Luis Valley of Colorado”. Food in the USA: A Reader. Editor: Counihan, C. M. New York: Routledge.

Çağlar, A. (1999) “Mc Kebap: Döner Kebap and the Social Positioning Struggle of German Turks”. Changing Food Habits: Case Studies from Africa, South America and Europe. Editor: Lentz, C. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Dusselier, J. (2002) “Does Food Make Place? Food Protests in Japanese American Concentration Camps”, Food and Foodways, 10 (3), 137-165.

Ferrero, S. (2002) “Comida sin par. Consumption of Mexican Food in Los Angeles: “Foodscapes” in a Transnational Consumer Society”. Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies. Editors: Belasco, W., Scranton, P. New York: Routledge.

Law, L. (2001) “Homecooking: Filipino Women and Geographies of the Senses in Hong Kong”, Ecumene: A Journal of Cultural Geographies, 8 (3), 264-283.

Wilk, R. (2002) “Food and Nationalism: The Origins of “Belizian Food”. Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies. Editors: Belasco, W., Scranton, P. New York: Routledge.

[1] I would like to thank N. Defne Karaosmanoğlu for her contributions in the literature review and for her comments.

[2] For more infrmation, please see

[3] For more information, please see

[4] For more information, please see

[5] For more information, please see

[6] Onaran, B. (2016) Mutfaktarih: Yemeğin Politik Serüvenleri, İletişim Yayınları, İstanbul.

[7] Anderson, B. (1993) Hayali Cemaatler Milliyetçiliğin Kökenleri ve Yayılması, Metis Yayınları, İstanbul.

[8] The pilot research consisting of the interviews, mapping, and observations that Burcu Tüm and I have conducted from August-October 2016 covers 32 restaurants and shops located in Fatih. The first version of the research was presented at the Berlin-Istanbul Lecture Series Urban Space and Refugees conference on 27 October 2016. Part of this study has been published online at,1575

[9] Kök Projekt organises a series of meetings called Urban Food with the collaboration of Salt Research. Their first guests were Dalia Mortada, the coordinator of the Savoring Syria project, and Bilal Haji Khalaf, the owner of Saruja Restaurant.

[10] To read a comprehensive version of the text, see:

These discussions are based on the accounts given during two panels I moderated. The first is the “Contemplating Food Issues in Public Spaces” panel organized on 19 October 2018 at TAK as part of the “Public in the Making” program (; the second is the “Collective Places for Solidarity and Coexistence with Refugees” panel held on 14 December 2018 at the Hrant Dink Foundation (

[11] Schmitt explains exception as “that which cannot be subsumed; it defies general codification”, and continues: “The exception appears in its absolute form when it is a question of creating a situation in which juridical rules can be valid... Rules require a homogeneous medium... There is no rule applicable to chaos. A regular situation must be created for the order of law to be meaningful... The sovereign is he who definitely decides if this situation is actually effective... He has the monopoly over the final decision. The exception is more interesting than the rule. The rule proves nothing; the exception proves everything: it confirms not only the rule but also its existence, which derives only from the exception...” (Agamben, 2001, p.26).

[12] As a student of Foucault, Agamben dates the origins of his biopolitics concept to pre-modernity, to Ancient Greece. He starts his book by highlighting the distinction in Ancient Greece between “zoe” – bare life, the state of being alive -, which now means “life”, and “bios” – form of life. While Zoe was regarded as the life of pleasures, excluded from Polis (public) and relegated to Oikos (household); Bios, with its “political life” meaning, would be used as the term for “life” in Plato’s and Aristotle’ works.