Turkey's Internal Other: Embodiments of TASRA in the Works of Orhan Pamuk, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and Fatih Akin
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In Turkey, the concept of taşra connotes much more than its immediate spatial meaning as those places outside of the city center(s). Its extensive circulation as a trope that indicates externality to modernity is inextricably linked to the specific configurations of the project of Turkish modernization. In this dissertation, I draw from the insights of postcolonial theory and psychoanalysis to develop a novel conceptualization of taşra, through which I interpret Turkey’s complicated relationship to modernity and its status within the new global order. I argue that a close analysis of the dominant discourses on taşra is revealing, for it constitutes one primary site where the predicaments and contradictions of Turkish modernization and national identity-constitution are played out, where collective anxieties around these issues continue to be projected and managed. In my analysis of these discourses, I adopt a deconstructive rather than a corrective approach: my objective is not to reveal what taşra “really” is but what work it is made to do. The contemporary cinematic and literary texts that I engage with in this study are the Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s memoir Istanbul: Memories and the City (2005), Turkish-German director Fatih Akın’s documentary Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005) and three films by the pioneer of the new genre of taşra films in Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan—namely Climates (2006), Three Monkeys (2008) and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011). Through close readings of these texts, I illustrate how each complicates, affirms and/or expands received understandings of taşra that celebrate and/or denounce it as being culturally, spatially and temporally external to modernity.