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Imagining the Turkish House

Collective Visions of Home

By Carel Bertram

Publication Year: 2008

“Houses can become poetic expressions of longing for a lost past, voices of a lived present, and dreams of an ideal future.” Carel Bertram discovered this truth when she went to Turkey in the 1990s and began asking people about their memories of “the Turkish house.” The fondness and nostalgia with which people recalled the distinctive wooden houses that were once ubiquitous throughout the Ottoman Empire made her realize that “the Turkish house” carries rich symbolic meaning. In this delightfully readable book, Bertram considers representations of the Turkish house in literature, art, and architecture to understand why the idea of the house has become such a potent signifier of Turkish identity. Bertram's exploration of the Turkish house shows how this feature of Ottoman culture took on symbolic meaning in the Turkish imagination as Turkey became more Westernized and secular in the early decades of the twentieth century. She shows how artists, writers, and architects all drew on the memory of the Turkish house as a space where changing notions of spirituality, modernity, and identity—as well as the social roles of women and the family—could be approached, contested, revised, or embraced during this period of tumultuous change.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. i-iii

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

No one told me how much I was going to enjoy the research and writing of this book. It was not merely that the topic was endlessly intriguing but that I met and came to know inspiring colleagues who shared my interests or supported my work, and I made friends for life. These people grace the pages of this book, and you will meet many of them in the footnotes. But I want to thank as many as I can here, for without them this book could not resonate, as I hope it does, with so many ideas and so much joy.

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Introduction: Welcome to the House

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pp. 1-14

There is a distinctive type of house that once was found wherever the Ottomans lived. From the seventeenth century up until the first days of the twentieth century, when regions like Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia, and Turkey were claiming a private title to their own part of this once great empire, timber-framed houses with protruding upper stories characterized a wide landscape, giving it a distinctive Ottoman stamp. Although these houses ...

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1. Bringing the Turkish House into Focus

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pp. 15-56

Since the beginning of the Turkish Republic in the early twentieth century, the built landscape of Turkey has undergone dramatic changes. This is not a situation that is peculiar to Turkey but one that is mirrored in many countries that began their architectural modernization during the twentieth century or at the end of the nineteenth. What is interesting for Turkey is that as its landscape of distinctive Ottoman-period houses was ...

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2. The House Takes on the Weight of Historical Consciousness

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pp. 57-102

By Dilmen’s time the Aksaray fire had entered the collective memory, but in its own time it happened to real people. In the collective life of any country there are moments such as these that are felt to change both one’s personal life and the collective life at the same time. That is, these events are autobiographical in nature, but they are also communally experienced and quickly become part of a shared memory.

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3. How Fiction Positioned the Turkish House on a Memory Chain of Values

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pp. 103-146

With the speeches of Hamdullah Suphi and the political efforts of the Turkish Hearth Society during the early part of the twentieth century, the old wooden house, the most important visual marker of Ottoman domestic space, began to be implanted in the public imagination as “the Turkish house.” This erasure of the Ottomans through their Turkification was intensified with the success of the nationalist project, that is, with the ...

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4. How Literature Is Spiritual Space, and How the Heart Is Superior to the Mind

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pp. 147-190

Kiralık Konak was one of the last novels of the Ottoman Empire. It was written in 1922, at the end of the struggle for liberation, in the last year of the last Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI.1 In 1923 the Turkish Republic would be formally established, and before the end of the decade the new Turkey would institutionalize and canonize profound cultural changes as it worked to forge a modern nation.

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5. The New Turkish Landscape and the Desire to Remember

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pp. 191-244

The konak life of Naim Efendi came to a close in 1908. In 1910, perhaps somewhat prematurely, Ahmet Midhat wrote in his novel Jön Türk (Young Turk) that “today the expression konak yavrusu (a konak-chick, or mini-konak) has become an expression that is out of use and forgotten. ‘Konak’ is gone, let alone mini-konak.”1 In 1927, the twenty-four-year-old journalist and historian Refik Ahmet Sevengil described konak interiors as ...

The Cast of Characters

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pp. 245-247


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pp. 249-296


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pp. 297-317


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pp. 319-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793996
E-ISBN-10: 0292793995
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292718258
Print-ISBN-10: 029271825X

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 81 halftones
Publication Year: 2008