Reading Occupied Istanbul: Turkish Subject-Formation from Historical Trauma to Literary Trope
Abstract: The Allied occupation of Istanbul is a little-known historical event outside of Turkey and the Middle East. European powers occupied Istanbul between 1918 and 1923 to enforce the partition of the Ottoman Empire after WWI in the construction of the Modern Middle East. Almost 100 Turkish novels that address occupied Istanbul have appeared over the last ninety years, beginning even before Allied armies left Istanbul in 1923. Turkey's present Middle Eastern re-emergence and post-Kemalist reassessment of secular modernity has also led writers and intellectuals back to the occupation of Istanbul. To examine why Turkish authors return repeatedly to the trope of occupied Istanbul, this essay surveys the first canonised novels about occupied Istanbul written during the Kemalist monoparty period (1923–50): Shirt of Flame by the exiled feminist and nationalist Halide Edib (1884–1964), Sodom and Gomorrah by the Kemalist ideologue Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu (1889–1974) and Outside the Scene by Turkey's first experimental, modernist author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1902–62). As bilingual Istanbul intellectuals, all three made occupied Istanbul a central drama in their fictions. However, each represented it differently as a formative event in the construction and critique of the nation-state and of modern Turkish subject-formation.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)