Yesterday, being a ten hour academic session, plus dinner and drinks on a boat, was a long day. Consequently, I am pretty much the personification of the slightly tired. Today is dubious tourism day, but first, a presentation and then a working group. Let’s go.
Nora Fisher Onar – From Periphery to Centre: The Rise of ‘Ottomanism’ in Contemporary Turkey
Nora’s talk was a fascinating discussion of Turkey’s move from a pro-secular to a pro-religious state, a move which is mostly due to an economic boom (basically pro-religious business people have encouraged pro-religious moves). However, it’s a mistake to think that Turkey is turning its back on the West: Turkey is a political actor in the West, in the East and as the crossing over point between East and West. Looking at Turkey’s history over the last 1100 years and the way that the story of Turkey, its Empires and its religious status tells us a useful story about the trajectory of Turkey as a political force today.
Nora’s framework is based around collective memory, which takes from the psychoanalytical, truth and reconciliation, the neuro-biological and socio-historical literature. Talk of memory in general is rooted in these kinds of talk, especially the significance of the role memory plays in forming identity and, perhaps arguably, the identity of the group/country you belong to. Think of the official historical narratives that get taught in schools, which can be used to present a hegemonic and monolithic story of what the national identity is and is constituted by.
The new Turkish state, post WWI, was a secular state, which did not necessarily sit well with some of the population, so with the punctuated change, along with military coups, there has been a quite distinct neo-Ottoman trajectory to state politic. The history and teaching about the Ottoman Era was suppressed by the national narrative but certain members of Turkish society have tried to bring it out and into the national narrative. The Ottoman Empire is now seen as the source, for some, of what Turkish identity should be.