“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” wrote Robert Frost. In this profile of Bağcılar, one of Istanbul’s most misunderstood districts, we look at the riveting history of Turkey’s self-styled “municipality to the world.”
We passed 10 firetrucks and other groups in helmets, some in bikinis and without masks. Half of us stayed put, and the other half rushed to help tug at a hose that slithered up a dirt slope and to deliver water bottles to those up there working.
Among all the foods in Istanbul’s giant foodscape, perhaps the one with the most complicated and long history and provenance is boza.
The key to understanding liberalism’s consistent presence at the core of otherwise illiberal governance in Turkey lies in the history of another word, muhalefet. It’s the word at the center of Christine M. Philliou’s brilliant new book.
“My baba left,” I would say to friends, who were still a little mystified I had moved by choice, “and now I’ve come back.” I could never stop myself from saying “back.” In a way, it makes no sense. I had never lived in Turkey before. But it acknowledges something that feels true: that the arcs of our stories stretch beyond our own lifetimes.
After 1923, homogeneity, sameness, consistency, and obedience were qualities strictly enforced — a kind of ethnic chauvinism that repudiated the weak pluralism of the Ottoman state … When the entire political class of a nation is so consumed by a furtively distrustful mindset, there is never a correct time to trouble the state with a demand for greater rights or greater equality.
The 1940s and ’50s were a golden age for Turkish travel writing. These were boom years for the Turkish publishing industry, and visitors invariably wrote up their experiences in books and newspaper columns with titles like “Letters from America,” satisfying a hungry audience.