Geographies of Revival and Erasure: Neo-Ottoman Sites of Memory in Istanbul, Thessaloniki, and Budapest

In: Die Welt des Islams
Jeremy F. Walton Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen

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In this article, I draw on Pierre Nora’s concept of “sites of memory” to explore the material textures and political effects of neo-Ottomanism in three locations: Miniatürk, a theme park in Istanbul that features scale replicas of many prominent Ottoman structures; Thessaloniki’s New Mosque, a former place of worship for the syncretic religious community of the dönme; and the Tomb of Gül Baba, a 16th-century Sufi dervish and saint, in Budapest. My exposition moves in two directions. On the one hand, I emphasize how sites of memory frequently serve to bolster dominant, politicized discourses of neo-Ottomanism. On the other hand, I trace how sites of renascent Ottoman memory – especially those outside of Turkey – undermine and contradict the premises of neo-Ottomanism in unanticipated ways. Over the course of my article, I develop the concept of “disciplined historicity” as a method for approaching sites of memory that integrates both historical knowledge and appreciation for the material and aesthetic qualities of the spaces in question.

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