The Politics of Identity and Neo-Ottomanism in Turkey: The Last Ottoman as a Hero of the Turkish Republic

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Since the establishment of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Republicans have typically done their best to distance themselves as much as possible from their Ottoman past. We see this in the banning of the fez or of the headscarf in public institutions, and even more so in the language reforms of the 1920s and 1930s. However, the last five years have seen a distinct rise of what have been labelled neo-Ottoman discourses in the construction of Turkish national identity. These discourses attempt to reconnect the Republican present to its Ottoman past by reformatting Turkish collective memory. One such example is the 2007 blockbuster film The Last Ottoman. In this film the protagonist, the prototypical Ottoman folk hero Knock-Out Ali, is portrayed as a key figure in the events leading up to the Turkish War of Independence. The film shows us Knock-Out Ali working side-by-side with Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) towards the establishment of the Republic. A film such as this one could never have been produced in the first decades of the Turkish Republic. The study of contemporary Turkish culture, and especially works of popular culture such as The Last Ottoman, offers us clear examples of how collective memory and identity are constructed. The rise of neo-Ottoman discourses in Turkey challenges any essentialist notion opposing the idea that national identities are in a constant state of flux.

Keywords: Identity Politics, Turkish Identity, Collective Memory, Neo-Ottomanism, The Last Ottoman
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Martin Cyr Hicks

Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, Fatih University
Istanbul, Turkey

Martin Cyr Hicks received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the Université de Montréal in 2004. His ongoing research focuses on identity politics, multiculturalism, Canadian studies and Turkey. He has been living and working in Istanbul since 2004 and he has been chairing Fatih University's Department of English Language and Literature since the fall of 2005. Dr. Hicks' term as department chair will end in the summer of 2008, and he will be very happy to finally be able to spend more time and energy on his research and writing.

Ref: H08P0658