Events 2017

Through the Looking Glass of the Local:
Rereading Istanbul’s Heterogeneous Pasts

Conference hosted by “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of
Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities”

September 28-29 2017 | Library Hall at MPI-MMG, Göttingen


Like any city of its size and longevity (but, then, is there any other city of both its size and longevity?), Istanbul can only be described by way of a series of contrasts that both demand and defy reconciliation: both palimpsest of historical strata and kaleidoscope of the contemporary; both text to be interpreted and object that frustrates interpretation; both brand commodity and site of silenced memories; both consumerist utopia and dystopian urban noir; both target of political-economic projects and uneven topography of powers past and present; both mundane lifeworld and myth; both the reflective nostalgia of lugubrious hüzün and the restorative nostalgia of Neo-Ottoman pomp; both May 1st and May 27th; both Gezi and Çamlıca. This list is necessarily incomplete; indeed, its incompletion is perhaps its most suggestive characteristic. Our conference, “Through the Looking Glass of the Local: Rereading Istanbul’s Pasts through Its Myriad Spaces,” foregrounds the resolute heterogeneity of Istanbul by emphasizing the formative, perspectival relationship between historical narratives of the city and spaces and places within it. How do specific spaces and sites—buildings, monuments, streets, mahalles—encourage certain histories and memories while silencing others? Which
chronotopes now dominate broad discourses about the city as a whole? And what counterhistories and heterotopias emerge from taking the differentiated space of the city seriously? At a time when Istanbul is uniquely targeted by both ideological and political economic powers seeking to extract surplus historical value from the city’s dense past, questions such as these are not only templates for scholarly endeavor, but sounding alarms urging attention.