Turkey Book Talk episode 167Sarah-Neel Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Art History, Theory and Criticism at the Maryland Institute College of Art, on “Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in Postwar Turkey” (University of California Press). 

The book paints a vivid portrait of Turkey’s art world in the 1950s and how it reflected early Cold War ideas of national development, individual enterprise and global integration.

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Turkey Book Talk episode #147 – Nicholas Danforth, non-resident fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, on “The Remaking of Republican Turkey: Memory and Modernity since the Fall of the Ottoman Empire” (Cambridge University Press).

The book upends conventional wisdom about social and political shifts between 1945 and 1960, years when Turkey held its first multi-party elections and joined the NATO alliance under the conservative Democrat Party government of prime minister Adnan Menderes.

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Support Turkey Book Talk by becoming a member. Members get extras including exclusive access to a 30% discount on all Turkey/Ottoman history books published by IB Tauris/Bloomsbury, transcripts of every interview upon publication, transcripts of the entire archive of episodes, and an archive of 231 reviews covering Turkish and international fiction, history, journalism and politics.

Turkey Book Talk #60 – MAX HOFFMAN of the Center for American Progress on the major recent study “IS TURKEY EXPERIENCING A NEW NATIONALISM?” based on focus groups and polling with the Metropoll research company.

The report finds that Turkey remains a deeply nationalist, conservative country, where the national mood is prickly, defensive and conspiratorial. But it also contains some perhaps surprising details about attitudes to President Erdoğan, levels of religiosity in young people, and the political opinions of Turkish women.

The study can be read/downloaded here. Further analysis of the results can be read here.

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Turkish Riviera

As mentioned in the podcast, here’s the episode we published with Max last year on his previous long report about civil society under siege in Turkey:

Become a member to support Turkey Book Talk and get extra content. Members get full transcripts (in English and Turkish) of every interview upon publication, transcripts of the entire Turkey Book Talk archive (in English) and access to an exclusive 30% discount on over 200 Turkey/Ottoman History titles published by IB Tauris.

Turkey Book Talk episode #46 – SUZY HANSEN on “NOTES ON A FOREIGN COUNTRY: AN AMERICAN ABROAD IN A POST-AMERICAN WORLD” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

She has reported from Turkey for 10 years for outlets including the New York Times magazine, Vogue and the LRB. Her reporting has tackled issues such as Syrian refugees in Istanbul, the Soma mining disaster, the Erdoğan-Gülen power struggle, and the post-coup attempt crackdown (links below the picture).

Download the episode or listen below.

Here’s my review of the book at HDN.

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Notes on a foreign country


Articles mentioned in the episode

Inside Turkey’s Purge – New York Times Magazine, April 2017

The Erdoğan Loyalists and the Syrian Refugees – New York Times Magazine, July 2016

The Mine Disaster that Shook Turkey – New York Times Magazine, November 2014

Whose Turkey Is It? – New York Times Magazine, February 2014



You can support Turkey Book Talk by taking advantage of a 33% discount plus free delivery (cheaper than Amazon) on five different titles, courtesy of Hurst Publishers:

  • ‘Jihad and Death: The Global Appeal of Islamic State’ by Olivier Roy
  • ‘The Circassian: A Life of Eşref Bey, Late Ottoman Insurgent and Special Agent’ by Benjamin Fortna
  • ‘The New Turkey and its Discontents’ by Simon Waldman and Emre Çalışkan
  • ‘The Poisoned Well: Empire and its Legacy in the Middle East’ by Roger Hardy
  • ‘Out of Nowhere: The Syrian Kurds in Peace and War’ by Michael Gunter

Follow this link to get that discount from Hurst Publishers.

Another way to support the podcast, if you enjoy or benefit from it: Make a pledge to Turkey Book Talk via Patreon. Many thanks to current supporters Michelle Zimmer, Steve Bryant, Jan-Markus Vömel, Celia Jocelyn Kerslake, Aaron Ataman, Max Hoffman and Andrew MacDowall.

The meeting earlier this week between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Barack Obama at the nuclear summit in Seoul afforded the Turkish press with a golden opportunity to engage once more in the popular national pastime of gleeful America-bashing. From liberal to conservative, secular to religious, left to right, marginal to mainstream, knee-jerk anti-Americanism seems hard-wired into all strands of political opinion in Turkey. In such a fractious political landscape, it could well be one of the only things that all sides can agree on. When America becomes ‘just another power’ though, one wonders where all this energy will be diverted.

Almost all Turkish newspapers covered Obama and Erdoğan’s discussions with a cynical, sneering tone; sometimes subtle, often overt. One of my favourite examples came on the front page of the conservative-nationalist ‘Yeni Çağ’ (New Age), which dragged an entire story out of an innocent picture of Obama sitting behind Erdoğan, casually gesturing with his index finger off camera – apparently this was cast-iron proof of what the paper labelled his arrogant ‘finger diplomacy’. Elsewhere, for the heresy of a ‘broad agreement’ existing between himself and Obama over the issues of Syria and Iran, Erdoğan was routinely labelled ‘Batının postacısı’ (‘the West’s postman’). Like one of those old magic eyes, I suppose, if you blink hard enough at anything you can uncover whatever message you want.

John Gray, in his recent demolition of the high priest of blanket anti-Americanism, Noam Chomsky, makes a number of salient points, which are useful to consider when observing the steaming piles of anti-American bile in the Turkish media. Gray – himself no friend of neo-liberal economics or American-style financial capitalism these days – condemns Chomsky for his simplistic belief that the imperialist United States is somehow ‘quintessentially criminal and evil … virtually the sole obstacle to peace in the world’. According to Chomsky, Gray writes, ‘since there is no major conflict that America has not caused, or at any rate seriously aggravated, there is none that America cannot end’. There is no conflict that cannot be resolved if the U.S. did not simply withdraw its inevitably nefarious influence. For sheer America-centric naivety, it’s a perspective rivalling that of the neo-conservatives, with both sharing an unyielding belief in omnipotent, omnipresent U.S. power. For Chomsky, ‘as much as for the neo-cons, America is the centre of the world. [He] views global politics through the same Manichean lens: you are either for America or against it’.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (quite a popular figure in Turkey) slams the corrupt Zionist regime of the United States, he strikes many as a brave anti-Western resistance underdog, (particularly those ready to embrace any folly so long as it gives a bloody nose to the ‘arrogant imperialist powers’). It’s an irony, however, that no matter how much the Iranian regime protests its proud, uncompromising independence, it in fact condemns itself to absolute dependence on America, if only for a pole against which to instinctively define itself. The same can be said for much reflex criticism of U.S. policy.

Of course, global American power should always be robustly critiqued; but genuine, thoughtful criticism dissolves such shallow Manicheanism as displayed by Chomsky, Ahmedinejad, or ‘Yeni Çağ’. Indeed, it would be nice to think that the self-abasing anti-Americanism of so much of the Turkish press will eventually be eclipsed by a more nuanced and balanced criticism. There are, however, emotional imperatives at stake, and I’m not holding my breath.

It would probably be too late anyway. With the world becoming increasingly multi-polar, and U.S. power and influence apparently on the wane (a fashionable intellectual tendency to declare, but also one based on empirical, observable fact), the populist anti-Americanism so often demonstrated in the Turkish media may – perhaps sooner than we think – start to look rather quaint. Who knows, we may even one day look back on ‘finger diplomacy’ with a certain nostalgia!

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