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Remembering Smyrna/Izmir: Shared History, Shared Trauma


This article uses the oral history narrative of an elderly Smyrniote/Izmirian woman born in 1915 to interpret memories of war and violence in the context of contemporary debates on history, memory and identity in the public sphere in Turkey. In narrating the occupation and burning of Izmir and the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish war, Gülfem Iren makes recourse to two different and seemingly contradictory discourses: the Turkish nationalist discourse, which attempts to account for the violence, including its silencing afterwards; and a local Izmirian discourse, which empathizes with the losers, those forced into exile—or worse—as a result of the war. The emphasis on the Izmirian discourse in the narrative demonstrates the joint effects of nostalgic cultural representations of the past and acrimonious and increasingly divisive debates on the history of the establishment of the Turkish Republic in Turkey today.

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