What is it about?

A teneke mahalle, mostly consisting of shacks constructed of collected waste materials, is a late Ottoman and early Republican phenomenon that parallels its global counterparts such as the Corralones in Peru or the Indian slums. Although occasionally mentioned in the pioneer studies, the long history of the teneke mahalles has been overlooked until recent times, and in the mainstream discussions on urban poverty, these neighborhoods have almost wholly been invisible. However, informal settlements came to the agenda of the state and society, right after the massive eviction in 1883 of the refugees of the War of 1877-1878 from the free temporary settlements. They created teneke mahalles, and over time, the local poor also adopted their creative solution for cheap and relatively safe housing. Drawing on both archival and oral records, the author establishes the actual presence of the category and traces the development of the idiom in the late nineteenth century.

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Why is it important?

The extensive literature in Turkey draws a portrait of gecekondus that is similar to the Barriadas or Gunthewaris from many aspects: the development of gecekondus, the physically improving, informal settlements built by the ex-agriculturalist rural migrants on the less central areas of the cities have been one of the significant patterns of urbanization since the 1950s.48 However, there are almost no studies about the development and spread of teneke mahalles, which was the primary form of informal settlements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article focuses on the early formation of teneke mahalles in the order to fill the gap in the literature drawing on the archival49 or oral records.


Teneke mahalles have never constituted as big a portion of the urban fabric as gecekondus. However, this does not mean that they do not deserve scholarly attention. Before the formation of gecekondus, they were the actual informal settlements that welcomed the most disadvantaged strata of the urban poor, whether refugee or local. The invention and the popularity of the term teneke mahalle, with its reference to tin as main construction material, was itself an essential indicator of the fact that the state and ordinary Ottoman subjects perceived their presence as a significant urban issue. According to the archival records, it was the shack clusters in Kadırga, Kumkapı that the term first denominated. However, the anonymous authors of the archival documents mentioned the settlements in Taşocağı, Nişantaşı, and Elmadağ, Pera as teneke mahalle at the end of nineteenth century. In a period of no more than forty years, many locations all around Istanbul and other Ottoman and early Republican cities joined the list of teneke mahalles.

Professor Egemen Yılgür
Yeditepe Universitesi

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Formation of Informal Settlements and the Development of the Idiom Teneke Mahalle in the Late-Ottoman Istanbul, Journal of Urban History, August 2020, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/0096144220948808.
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