CEST Vienna 2019

The Concept of Culture and its Politicization in Turkey and the Diaspora

5th Annual European Symposium on Turkey

Even though in its core the emergence of ‘Modern Turkey’ could be considered a cultural revolution, some discourses on culture as well as fundamental transformations in the field of culture can arguably be traced back to the late Ottoman period. This symposium examined the ways in which the concept of culture and the idea of its homogeneity featured in late Ottoman and Turkish discourses. It seeks to unearth the methods culture was and is used as a tool for implementing and legitimizing a political project. Yet, the imposition of, for example, the humanist cultural project in the 1930s and 40s never was all-encompassing nor uncontested by members of the multiethnic and -religious society. Even in today’s Turkey in which the implementation of a new political regime has had massive repercussions for the functioning of institutions and the relationship between state and society, the state still failed to gain an all-inclusive control in cultural realm and “pockets of resistance” continue to exist.

Culture is understood as a highly contested resource, yet, something which is continuously in process and hence not fixed. Culture serves as the field for affirming hegemonic discourse but also as a space to create and perform resistance strategies. For that, culture is not an exclusive term which only applies to high culture, it also includes all sorts of mundane and everyday practices, performances and expressions.

The meeting investigated and discuss the various forms of “cultural engineering” through history, the different discourses on culture and the numerous practices of articulating, performing and producing culture as well as cultural identities/resources – be it in line with or against the cultural policy of the state. Turkey’s official cultural policies aimed at Turkish citizens living abroad will also be a focus of the symposium.