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.
Is Hizmet liberal? The question is intractable both for Hizmet actors and for the Turkish public sphere more broadly. In this essay, I marshal ethnographic research carried out over several years among Hizmet institutions in Istanbul to shed light on the politics of this question. I examine several characteristic Hizmet institutions in order to argue that Hizmet forges a synthesis between Islamic and liberal discourses and practices. This synthesis unravels dichotomous images of Islam and liberalism as necessarily opposed. In particular, I analyze ethical values such as “positive action” (müspet hareket), “service” (hizmet), and piety (taqwa), as well as initiatives, such as interreligious dialogue (dinler arası diyalog), carried out by Hizmet-affiliated charitable foundations/pious endowments (vakıflar). By way of conclusion, I reevaluate the title question of the article to unpack the dialectical tension embedded between liberal political projects and liberalism as a disciplining power.