Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Galata Tower, being one of the oldest and the most important towers in the world, was made by Byzantium Emperor Anastasius in 507 under the name of Lighthouse Tower. The tower was made by wood. Taking over the tower in 1348, Geneose rebuilt the tower with pile stone and named it Christ Tower. When Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, the tower got under the Ottoman Empire’s management. In 15th century, the tower was used as dungeon and in 16th century, the tower was used as a fire tower. The first ma
n who flew in history, in 17th century, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi, put wooden wings to his arms flew from Galata Tower to Üsküdar. Damaged in the fire of Galata in 1832, Galata Tower was restoraged by Mahmut the Second and used as a sign tower. Also restored in 1967,Galata Tower gained its today’s view and still used for touristic formation. Thus, Galata Tower got its name from the historical province of Istanbul, from Galata. The space around the tower involves the study of generation of meaning by signs and their connotations in the environment. Thus, it can be analyzed in terms of fusion of cultures, effects of capitalism and reflections of patriarchy.
When someone starts a trip around Galata Tower, one of the most striking things is the fusion of cultures that is obvious from social space and buildings. The binary oppositions start in the streets that lead to the tower. As it is depicted in this picture, there are two buildings facing each other which are different in appearance. The one on the right has been recently constructed or restored whereas the other seems ancient. The latter reflects traces of history and experience as if an old inhabitant of the street. The former stands away from past and shines with its colour which is adapted to modern constructions. Veiled women walking down the street and passing by church which generates no meaning for their religious beliefs is a good example of harmony of two religions. Shops which surround the tower have a significant role in reflecting the change of a historical place. Adıgüzel Restaurant which is poor in appearance is in a contrast with Country Life which serves the needs of contemporary lifestyle. There is a conflict between its appearance and practice as it is playing Turkish folk music. This conflict is also seen in a different way on the menu of Adıgüzel Restaurant. Although its name is spelled in Turkish, its menu is written in English and it serves Turkish food. When the point comes to the main subject-the tower, it is a combination of oriental and western cultures. Above the gate of the tower, there are some ornaments in Ottoman Turkish language which reflect the history of the building. In addition, souvenir shop on the left sells handmade wallets, glasses, jewellery and bags with Turkish motives to reflect the Turkish culture because most of the visitors are foreigners. As a result, there is reception like place on the right where ‘information’ is written. In the middle, an elevator lifts people to the top of the tower, but there are also stairs made of wood emphasizing the authenticity of the building. At the top of the tower, the flags of different nations are located in the entrance of the restaurant as an evidence of harmony of cultures. In materialistic terms, it is western; in spiritual terms, it is Turkish, so fusion of cultures is obvious in each detail.
The reality of existence of different cultures is also a consequence of power relations determining the social structure, namely capitalism. According to Marx, capitalism stresses the historical specifity of human affairs and the changable character of social formations whose core features are located in the material conditions of existence and it is a dynamic system whose profit driven mechanisms lead to the continual revolutionizing of the means of productions and the forging of new markets. Marx claims that people live in capitalist lines and cultural practices are commodified by culture industries. Modernization of the tower and its surroundings are the products of industries which search profit by attracting people. Since they get used to and are alienated from the dominant system in their country, it is inevitable for them to serve these corporations. A great number of modern designed and expensive cafes, restaurant, souvenir shops surround the historical tower and each invites visitors to spend money.
Galata Tower is actually a historical place but now it consists of a night bar, cafe and restaurant to welcome the guests coming from foreign lands. Inside of the building looks modern even there is a huge lcd on the first floor which shows a belly dancer performing at the restaurant. No detail is skipped in order to comfort people and make a lot of profit out of the building so in today’s world, the tower is a place commodified by cultural industries.
Stuart Hall points out that culture is a contested terrain, an arena of both consent and resistence in the struggle over cultural meanings. The place is occupied by the flocks of people who are constantly in action of shopping and consuming by consent. On the other hand, there are some others who react against or resist to the material forces which have created a market place in this historical area as in the whole world. A writing on the wall gives the very example of this reaction but it is still a passive protest as the one who has written it could find a place in suburban. A shoeshine man who works in front of a jazz bar is glad in appearance contrasted to the resentment in his heart but he has no possibility of victory over the dominant structure.
To sum up, ‘ the dominant class expressed their power by giving legitimacy and exposure to their cultural forms and practices by projecting their fields of value. Thus, the practice of assigning value is not an innocent exercise. It is an aspect of cultural struggle and involves a war for cultural status.’
One of the determiners of the urban space, like the fusion of the cultures and capitalism, is the patriarchal system in the society. Patriarchy is a social system in which men have all the power and shape all the structures for their own good. Until the first half of 20th century, men did not render it possible for women to have an effective role in political and social activities in order not to share their power. Woman as an angel in the house was only responsible for looking after children and dealing with the household. Altough their position has evolved through a number of stages, the burdens that are put upon their shoulders are the same on the base and their status in front of men is reminded through cultural products. Walking along the junk shops around
Galata, one can see the world of men in which there is no place for six women passing the street under the exposure of the stares. However, it is not weird to face such an attitude in a society where the dominant figure is man. The work space of the women is limited and those who manage a business in each field are men. The shops around the place are the perfect examples of this claim since in this male ruling world, there is only one shop hold by a woman.
When the point comes to the architecture, the motives and symbols associate with texts that belong to patriarchy. The street lambs illuminating the darkness are phallic-like in shape which connotates the idea that women cannot find the true path without the help of the men. Galata Tower stands straight at the center of all structures as a phallic
symbol representing the male power over the system. A woman body has a fundamental role in satisfying the needs of men, for this reason it is a sexual object to be commodified in male market. The lcd screen inside the tower plays the video of a Turkish belly dancer to attract men’s attention because this is the easiest way to invite them to the night bar.
As stated before, dominant power in a society determines all the internal and external structures which serve their own interests. Patriarchy emerges in each object and reminds itself as an ultimate power.
Consequently, Galata Tower which witnessed a great number of historical events has been used for different purposes and so it has influenced its surroundings. Since the purposes of usage has been determined by the changing world conditions, its current position has been analyzed in terms of fusion of cultures, capitalism and patriarchy. As it is stressed before, the urban place shelters Turkish and Western cultures and they stand together in harmony inside and outside of the tower. Besides this cultural atmosphere, in each corner it has the effects of capitalism which dominates the world and as a result it is a commodity of culture industries. Lastly, relations in the society have evolved through many stages but Galata Tower stands straight representing patriarchy which still exists.

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