Onursal Erol is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Chicago. Prior to coming to Chicago, he obtained a MSc at Lund University in Sweden, and a BA in Bogazici University in Turkey. His dissertation research is situated at the intersection of gender politics, social movements and contentious politics, and critical geography. The multi-site archival research he conducted was funded by the Orin Williams Grant. In addition to his research, Onursal has been a 2018-2019 Mansueto Urban Fellow, supervised BA theses as a preceptor in both Political Science and Global Studies programs, and taught political science and human rights courses.
Onursal’s dissertation investigates the genealogy of urban space and its gender politics in Istanbul. It takes its cue from the Gezi Park Uprising, which started as a small-scale urban conservationist protest against the demolition of a public park but evolved to feature the unmistakable hypervisibility of gender politics as one of its main constituents. He contends that access to the emphatic cultural aspects of political contention requires us to see past the dazzling qualities of the spectacle. Beyond the spectacle of the "event" lies continuous, non-episodic, and historically contingent forms of claims-making over urban public space. Onursal marshalls archival materials that date as far back as 1716 and consist of historical maps, urban plans and urban planning competitions, world exhibitions documents, government correspondence, periodicals, private travel albums, letters, diaries, and travelogues. The through line he extracts from them revolves around the continuous ways of governing, designing, and representing gender in urban Istanbul, as well as resenting, resisting, and negotiating being gendered in it. Onursal’s research uncovers a local genealogy of the relationship between gender and public claims-making in this inveterately urban city, where the continuous intermingling and segregation of bodies, the sedimentary accumulation and erasure of the spatial manifestations of gender norms, the endless traumatic repurposing of public space as the ostensible panacea to the ruptures of war, genocide, modernity, downfall, revolution, emancipation, and liberation take the stage as the primary explanatory factors behind contingent forms of gender contention.