The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey

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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 the first World War. 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 and personalized representations of the past with which they engage 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 as well as the minority groups. Contributors to this volume come from diverse disciplines of 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.