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The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey

Edited by Esra Özyürek

Cloth $24.95s    |    0-8156-3131-6    |    2006

Approaches little-studied aspects of Turkish national identity from unique and revealing angles, offering a variety of new insights into how history has informed—and created—modern Turkey.

"These eight essays, mostly by Turkish anthropologists and sociologists, provide excellent understanding of the politics of history and the memory in Turkey since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and a sophisticated analysis of the relationship of the past to contemporary political conflicts within the country. Topics range from cultural representations of ‘Anatolian tradition’ within carpet weaving, museum displays, and the multiple meanings of a world-renowned archaeological and tourist site (Eatalhökyük), to contested interpretations of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk’s sympathies towards Islam, to memoirs about violent relationships and the politics of nationality involving (so-called) Turks, Kurds, and Armenians, to the social consequences of population exchanges between Turkey and Greece in 1923. The chief goal and achievement of the volume is to offer significant examples of the revival of interest in Turkey in complicated and debated histories and social memoirs. In addition, the authors contribute considerable detail and analyses about the relevance of these debates for the construction of present cultural identities and sociopolitical status and about ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender, class, and geographical differences in a country frequently (and inaccurately) portrayed as relatively homogeneous in culture and history."

Turkish society is frequently accused of having amnesia. It has been said that there is no social memory in Turkey before Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey after World War I. Indeed, in 1923, the newly founded Turkish Republic committed to a modernist future by erasing the memory of its Ottoman past. Now, almost eighty years after the establishment of the Republic, the grandchildren of the founders have a different relationship with history. New generations make every effort to remember, record, and reconcile earlier periods. The multiple, personalized representations of the past which they have recovered allow contemporary Turkish citizens to create alternative identities for themselves and their communities. Unlike its futuristic and homogenizing character at the turn of the twentieth century, Turkish nationalism today uses memories to generate varied narratives for the nation and its minority groups.

Table of Contents for The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey (PDF)

Contributors to this volume come from such diverse disciplines as anthropology, comparative literature, and sociology, but they share a common understanding of contemporary Turkey and how its different representations of the past have become metaphors through which individuals and groups define their cultural identity and political position. They explore the ways people challenge, reaffirm, or transform the concepts of history, nation, homeland, and "Republic" through acts of memory- effectively demonstrating that memory can be both the basis of cultural reproduction and a form of resistance. The introduction of comparative material to other societies is rare and adds an important new dimension to the analyses.

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Esra Özyürek is an associate professor in the department of anthropology at the University of California-San Diego. She is the author Nostalgia for the Modern: Privatization of State Secularism in Turkey.

6 x 9, 224 pages, 15 black-and-white illustrations, notes, bibliography, index

The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey

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