Politics of Urban Development & Wildfires in California & Turkey


While Turkey and California suffer from similar wildfire risk, they have developed diametrically opposed fire suppression strategies: the former adopted an increasingly centralized strategy, while the latter dwells upon a highly decentralized system. This paper is a comparative analysis that relates the politics of land use in wild-urban interfaces (WUIs) to this divergence in firefighting strategies. Our argument is that evolution of the divergent fire suppression strategies in California and Turkey are linked to two different types of rent-seeking behavior. Developers and landed interest seek for absolute rent in Turkey and differential rent in California.

The decentralized strategy in California allows for distinguishing the property prices between areas of low and high protection and commodifies safety as a form of investment regulating the market prices of land. In Turkey, the tendency toward centralization of firefighting is a part of the composite political strategy to open new land for development by completing the hitherto unfinished cadastral records of the WUIs. Thus, the centralized firefighting strategy indirectly leads to extensive commodification of the WUIs in Turkey and expands the national land market.

(2014) w/ Utku Balaban. “Politics of Urban Development and Wildfires in California and Turkey.” Environment & Planning A. Vol. 46. No 4. pp. 820-836 DOI: 10.1068/a46163

Glorified Fantasies and Masterpieces of Deception: Importing Las Vegas into the New South Africa


With the end of apartheid, Johannesburg and other South African cities are now part of a new global race to ascend and to become ‘world-class’ tourist and business centers. At the center of this development is the importation of Vegas-style spectacle by local entrepreneurs, firms, and other city boosters who create fantasyscapes such as the Emperor’s Palace and GrandWest. Financed and run by South African impresarios – whose luxurious empires transcend the continent – these resorts represent not only the globalization of gaming but the way in which South African cities see themselves within the world-wide urban hierarchy. As such, this paper seeks to untangle the global and local aspects of importing fantasy into the ‘New South Africa’.

(2014) w/ Martin J. Murray. “Glorified Fantasies and Masterpieces of Deception: Importing Las Vegas into the New South Africa.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 38. No 3. pp. 843-863 DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.12006

The Façade of Safety in California’s Shelter-In-Place Homes: History, Wildfire and Social Consequence

wildfireThis article examines the seemingly incongruous ways in which Shelter-in-Place (SIP) practices have been sold, deployed and discussed in Southern California to battle wildfire. In particular, this will be a critique of the technical literature and application of fire safety in housing, as well as the anthropocentric hubris that humans can outsmart wildfire. Rather than focus on the success or failure of SIP, I am situating the SIP within the context of architecture, the history of fire safety, and the push of neoliberalism. The purpose of this approach is to make SIP and fire safe home design less about technology and know-how, and more about broader social issues such as privatization and social inequality.

(2013) “The Façade of Safety in California’s Shelter-In-Place Homes: History, Wildfire and Social Consequence.” Critical Sociology. Vol. 39. No 6. pp. 833-849. DOI: 10.1177/0896920512455936

Materializing Spanish-Colonial Revival Architecture: History and Cultural Production in Southern California

New Home

New Home

In the early twentieth century, Spanish-Colonial Revival became embedded in the local culture of Southern California. However, this architectural style did not simply appear, rather it was materialized by architects, builders, realtors, and manufacturers of construction materials who built for and sold to homeowners. This process was not simply about using “history“ and “heritage.“ Rather, these social actors had to legitimize the ubiquitous use of red-tile roofing and cement stucco to establish new aesthetic norms and conventions for the vernacular landscape. As such, this article will look at the relationship between the political economy of building and aesthetics in the shaping of the vernacular landscape.

(2012) “Materializing Spanish-Colonial Revival: The Historical Landscape and Cultural Production in Southern California.” Home Cultures. Vol. 9. No. 2. pp. 149-172. DOI: 10.2752/175174212X13325123562223

Contradictions in California’s Orientalist Landscape: Architecture, History and Spanish-Colonial Revival

Although Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture and place-names dominates Southern California’s landscape, one also finds simulated Middle Eastern bazaars, references to Ancient Egypt, and the frequent use of iconography from the non-European Old World. While the region’s landscape is a product of bricolage and postmodern sensibilities, this article looks at the history of ‘Orientalism’ in Southern California’s built environment. In particular, I am looking at the precedents for this seemingly contradictory use of the ‘Oriental’ in the region. The ‘Oriental’ as a sinfully seductive means of creating spectacle in the built environment, is both glorified and demonized at the same time in popular discourse. For example, the ‘Oriental’ is celebrated in shopping malls, but demonized culturally and politically. However, it is in this contradiction, we can see how history and ideology has shaped the vernacular landscape. As such, this article will look at early twentieth century examples of the ‘Oriental’ in Spanish-Colonial Revival as a foundation to understand contradictions in the built environment, culture, and racial hierarchies.

(2011) “Contradictions in California’s Orientalist Landscape: Architecture, History & Spanish-Colonial Revival.” Cities. Vol. 28. No. 4. pp. 240-346. DOI: 10.1016/j.cities.2010.09.003

Cinema and The Edgy City: Johannesburg, Carjacking, And The Postmetropolis

Oliver Schmitz’s Hijack Stories (2000) is a story of cross-over cultures and mixed genres set in Johannesburg. In this blurring of boundaries, he presents us an interplay between the dangerous city of both fact and fiction. Schmitz’s cinematic depiction of the city, weaves in and out, as well as to and from yuppie neighbourhoods and Soweto. Thus, we see how post-apartheid Johannesburg is a place of hybrid identities not only in the different spaces of the city, but through the influence of global hip-hop cultures, as well as the real and imagined perceptions of the city’s ‘citizens’. This paper examines the way in which Schmitz’s film intersects these relationships in this edgy city.