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Jewish Life in Twenty-First-Century Turkey

The Other Side of Tolerance

Marcy Brink-Danan

Publication Year: 2011

Turkey is famed for a history of tolerance toward minorities, and there is a growing nostalgia for the "Ottoman mosaic." In this richly detailed study, Marcy Brink-Danan examines what it means for Jews to live as a tolerated minority in contemporary Istanbul. Often portrayed as the "good minority," Jews in Turkey celebrate their long history in the region, yet they are subject to discrimination and their institutions are regularly threatened and periodically attacked. Brink-Danan explores the contradictions and gaps in the popular ideology of Turkey as a land of tolerance, describing how Turkish Jews manage the tensions between cosmopolitanism and patriotism, difference as Jews and sameness as Turkish citizens, tolerance and violence.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: New Anthropologies of Europe

Front Matter

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PREFACE: The Ends and Beginnings of 1992

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pp. ix-xiii

Although there has not been an official census of Jews in Turkey since the 1960s, recent population estimates range from 18,000 to 25,000 (Tuval 2004:xxxiii; Toktaş 2006a:123), making Turkey today home to the highest number of Jews outside Israel in the lands that once comprised...

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pp. xv-xx

The following fellowships and institutions generously supported research for this book: Fulbright-Hays, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, Maurice Amado Foundation for Sephardic Studies, Eastern Consortium of Persian and Turkish, Mellon Foundation, Institute of Turkish...

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pp. 1-32

This is a book about the tensions inherent in Turkish Jewish life at the turn of the twenty-first century. These tensions arise from a number of contradictions: Jews in Turkey publicly celebrate a long history of coexistence and tolerance in the region, yet live with ongoing security...

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ONE. Tolerance, Difference, and Citizenship

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pp. 33-62

As Turkey continues its half-century march toward joining the European Union, its Jews have been singled out as living proof of Turkey’s fulfillment of the Union’s “recognition of diversity” criterion. Public efforts toward “recognition of diversity,” however imperfectly matched...

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TWO. Cosmopolitan Signs: Names as Foreign and Local

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pp. 63-82

In Istanbul, one quickly observes a wide variety of political, religious, and class affiliations: “The Istanbul cityscape is like a raised Braille script that the traveler can read as a code for the different forces and interests, and the negotiations among them, that characterize the city” (White...

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THREE. The Limits of Cosmopolitanism

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pp. 83-105

Throughout my fieldwork research, my Turkish Jewish friends advised me to follow their example and erase my own Jewishness from the public sphere, citing a list of “don’ts” that sometimes seemed endless: don’t nail your mezuzah to the outside of the doorframe, don’t wear a Jewish star...

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FOUR. Performing Difference: Turkish Jews on the National Stage

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pp. 106-124

In the early 2000s, a small group of Turkish citizens performed their civic duty as members of a secular democratic regime by going to the polls, voting by secret ballot, and inaugurating their leader in a lavish ceremony: on October 24, 2002, Jews throughout Turkey participated...

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FIVE. Intimate Negotiations:Turkish Jews Between Stages

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pp. 125-143

As discussed in the previous chapter in relation to the chief rabbi’s election, the Turkish verb temsil etmek means “to represent.” Self-representation, itself a kind of performance, is central to how Turkish Jews imagine their participation in public and also private spaces. Although...

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SIX. The One Who Writes Difference: Inside Secrecy

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pp. 144-165

“In retrospect, it appears that the ability to encourage the voluntarily mute to speak, and the talent to open the innermost thoughts and interpret the secrets of hundreds of interviewees, was a basic condition in writing this study” ....


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pp. 166-174


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pp. 175-184


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pp. 185-207


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pp. 209-218

Back Matter

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pp. 219-221

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005267
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356901

Page Count: 242
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: New Anthropologies of Europe