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Between neo-Ottomanism and Ottomania: navigating state-led and popular cultural representations of the past

  • Murat Ergin (a1) and Yağmur Karakaya (a2)

Abstract

In contemporary Turkey, a growing interest in Ottoman history represents a change in both the official state discourse and popular culture. This nostalgia appropriates, reinterprets, decontextualizes, and juxtaposes formerly distinct symbols, ideas, objects, and histories in unprecedented ways. In this paper, we distinguish between state-led neo-Ottomanism and popular cultural Ottomania, focusing on the ways in which people in Turkey are interpellated by these two different yet interrelated discourses, depending on their social positions. As the boundary between highbrow and popular culture erodes, popular cultural representations come to reinterpret and rehabilitate the Ottoman past while also inventing new insecurities centering on historical “truth.” Utilizing in-depth interviews, we show that individuals juxtapose the popular television series Muhteşem Yüzyıl (The Magnificent Century) with what they deem “proper” history, in the process rendering popular culture a “false” version. We also identify four particular interpretive clusters among the consumers of Ottomania: for some, the Ottoman Empire was the epitome of tolerance, where different groups lived peacefully; for others, the imperial past represents Turkish and/or Islamic identities; and finally, critics see the empire as a burden on contemporary Turkey.

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Footnotes

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Authors’ Note: The authors are listed alphabetically, as each is an equal co-author. We would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers of New Perspectives on Turkey for their helpful comments and criticisms.

Footnotes

References

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Keywords

Between neo-Ottomanism and Ottomania: navigating state-led and popular cultural representations of the past

  • Murat Ergin (a1) and Yağmur Karakaya (a2)

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