World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Narratives and Politics: From the late Ottoman to the Republic Period (284) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 9.00 - 11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Sibel Irzik (Professor, Sabanci University, Turkey)

Paper presenter: Sibel Irzik (Professor, Sabanci University, Turkey), "Military Coup Narratives and the (Dis)Articulations of the Political in the Contemporary Turkish Novel"
I will discuss the thematic and formal features of the Turkish subgenre of ‘coup-d’état novels’ to consider the dynamics of remembering and forgetting, of guilt and innocence, of resistance and complicity in literary reflections of collective trauma brought about by political violence and repression. In its emergence after the 1971 coup, the main thrust of this subgenre was a desire to elicit sympathy for the victims and indignation against state violence. To this end, most of the novels in this category constructed a discourse of innocence around the revolutionaries, failing to acknowledge their political agency and thus ironically converging with the repressive state’s own discourse of the nation as infantile and in need of guidance and punishment. Literary accounts of the events leading to and following the 1980 coup are more varied and often more ambivalent. A great majority of these novels were written after two decades of near silence, mostly by not very well known authors, in some cases as first novels. Even at this factual level, in this delayed, ‘non-canonical’, and still rather weak literary response, a fracture between established literary practices and this traumatic and deeply transformative political experience is visible. The main purpose of my talk is to address the causes of this fracture between the literary and the political, the ways in which it is inscribed into the texts, the ways in which it enables some forms of engagement with the past while inhibiting others, and its links with economic and social transformations that go beyond the Turkish context.

Paper presenter: Boerte Sagaster (Assistant Professor, Dpt. of Turkish Studies, University of Cyprus), “Emotional Conflicts in the Works of Turkish National Writers of the Early Republican Period”
Authors of Turkish national literature like Halide Edib Adivar and Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu have grown up in times when the multiethnic and multicultural traditions of the Ottoman Empire were still alive. However, during the emergence period of the Turkish nation these authors transformed themselves into intellectual role models of the young nation state. The prize for this was emotional conflicts caused by the incompatibility between their Ottoman and their national selves. In order to conform to the ideas of the new nation, they partially devaluated or neglected their pre-Kemalist past. In my paper, I aim to trace some of these emotional conflicts of Turkish national writers as reflected in their writings from the 1920s to the 1950s. My particular attention will be directed to the contradictory statements these writers present in different genres, namely the supposedly ‘fictional’ novel and the supposedly ‘non-fictional’ autobiography.

Paper presenter: Helin Burkay (PhD Student, Carleton University, Canada), “’Sentences’ to Death: Narrative Analysis of the Last Letters of Death Prisoners during the 1980s”
Within the mainstream historiography of the military regime the story of the state and bureaucracy takes the upper hand while the everyday forms of violence and the experiences of those who have lived it rendered invisible. My aim is to look at the military coup from another angle and to complicate the picture of grand narratives and state centric models. My aim is to look at the military coup from another angle and to complicate the picture of grand narratives and state centric models. Although the oppressive military regime of arbitrary violence has silenced the dissenting voices of the left, in the last couple of years the public memory of the coup has been more audible and visible. Although no member of the military was held accountable or judged by the civil courts yet, stories of those who have or have not survived the state violence during the coup rendered more visible by the efforts of the intellectuals, NGOs and international community. The nascent public memory of the 1980 coup makes new stories and experiences available to the public among which there are memoirs, autobiographies and interviews. With a view to contribute to this burgeoning body of work, in my presentation I will read and make a narrative analysis of the last letters of the death prisoners who were executed after the 1980 coup due to their political engagements. I will focus solely on the letters themselves and my aim is not to detach them from the social and economic context that they were written. I will try to pinpoint the links and background. I will read these letters as brief life-story narratives written at the face of an unjust death. However my aim is not to arrive a conclusion about the lives of the writers of these letters in a comprehensive way. I will not be working towards making claims beyond the narrative space of the letters and the brief moment they were written. Against the backdrop of blurred boundaries between agency, experience, autobiography and construction of the self, my aim is to focus on the narrative strategies that these letters demonstrate in terms of construction and representation of the self.