Insight Turkey
Insight Turkey
Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs

Insight Turkey > Reviews > Book Reviews |

Streets of Memory: Landscape, Tolerance and National Identity in Istanbul

Recent neoliberal/post-Kemalist shifts in Turkish culture and politics have ushered in, among other things, a rekindled interest in Istanbul’s cosmopolitan past and in the remaining vestiges of its historical urban fabric. While an increasingly sophisticated culture industry is mobilized to recast the former as an object of nostalgia for popular consumption, gentrification projects are transforming the social landscape of historical neighborhoods in new and often controversial ways. Amy Mills’s ethnographic study of Kuzguncuk offers a compelling account of these processes at work in a picturesque neighborhood on the Asian shores of the Bosporus, widely accepted to be the paradigm of multi-ethnic coexistence, neighborliness and aesthetic charm in a city that has lost most of these qualities to republican urban/social modernization during the latter half of the 20th century. As Mills uncovers in six thematic chapters, this image of Kuzguncuk as the idealized mahalle—as the embodiment of belonging and familiarity as well as ethnic/religious harmony and tolerance—in fact obscures deeper histories of discrimination, conflict and violence that went hand in hand with nationalism, “Turkification” and successive episodes of migration. “Nostalgia constitutes the flip side of silence”, writes Mills (p. 210), and Streets of Memory makes a convincing case of how cosmopolitan nostalgia, along with its silences, ultimately bolsters the very same Turkish nationalist narrative that it claims to contest.

 

Recent neoliberal/post-Kemalist shifts in Turkish culture and politics have ushered in, among other things, a rekindled interest in Istanbul’s cosmopolitan past and in the remaining vestiges of its historical urban fabric. While an increasingly sophisticated culture industry is mobilized to recast the former as an object of nostalgia for popular consumption, gentrification projects are transforming the social landscape of historical neighborhoods in new and often controversial ways. Amy Mills’s ethnographic study of Kuzguncuk offers a compelling account of these processes at work in a picturesque neighborhood on the Asian shores of the Bosporus, widely accepted to be the paradigm of multi-ethnic coexistence, neighborliness and aesthetic charm in a city that has lost most of these qualities to republican urban/social modernization during the latter half of the 20th century. As Mills uncovers in six thematic chapters, this image of Kuzguncuk as the idealized mahalle—as the embodiment of belonging and familiarity as well as ethnic/religious harmony and tolerance—in fact obscures deeper histories of discrimination, conflict and violence that went hand in hand with nationalism, “Turkification” and successive episodes of migration. “Nostalgia constitutes the flip side of silence”, writes Mills (p. 210), and Streets of Memory makes a convincing case of how cosmopolitan nostalgia, along with its silences, ultimately bolsters the very same Turkish nationalist narrative that it claims to contest.

Already have an account? Sign In.
Print Subscription
4 Print Issues
Subscribe
Digital Subscription
4 Digital Issues
Subscribe
Premium Subscription
4 Print Issues
4 Digital Issues
Subscribe

Labels »  

We use cookies in a limited and restricted manner for specific purposes. For more details, you can see "our data policy". More...