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The South Atlantic Quarterly 102.2/3 (2003) 396-403
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Humoring the State
Every day during the past twenty years, Behiç Ak's cartoon strip in the daily Cumhuriyet has confronted the Turkish people with the paradoxes and absurdities of the lives they lead and the identities they try to inhabit. Ak defines humor as a way of positioning oneself against the existing order. His cartoons do this by producing laughter out of the logical distortions involved in behaving as though the existing order were natural and meaningful. His distinctly personal style combining wit and understatement gives expression to a penetrating critique of the deterioration of values evident in Turkish society during the period following the 1980 coup. [End Page 396]
"I'm reading Huntington these days. He says there will be a CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS in the world. It's a good thing we're not a civilization."
"To tell you the truth, I'm more for Wallerstein's theses."
"Do you happen to have Turkish coffee?" [End Page 397]
"I want to go to space when I grow up."
"Then you have to learn English."
"Look mom, an Ottoman!" [End Page 398]
"So our Sabri is a Christian, huh? Where did you get that idea?"
"Don't you know? He died the other day, and they had his funeral in a church."
"I'm going through an incredible identity crisis these days. Am I a Turk? Greek? Arab? Or a Byzantian Jew?"
"How's your French? I have a wonderful article on this topic." [End Page 399]
"My mother is a pure-blood Albenian."
"My father is a pure-blood Georgian."
"As for me, I am a pure-blood Turk."
"I am totally confused. My family will let me go to university only if I wear the headscarf, and the state will let me only if I don't." [End Page 400]
"As a GERMAN NATIONALIST, I am against Turks' being accepted into the EU."
"And as a TURKISH NATIONALIST, I am against Turkey's entering the EU."
[End Page 401]
"I'm a nationalist, man. If somebody says, the strawberries in your country have hormones, I protest."
"Just as I protest when somebody says there's radiation in your tea."
"If someone says there are no human rights, I protest as well."
"If they say ‘there's no law, there's no democracy,' I protest."
"So, isn't there anything you criticize in this country?"
"Of course there is! There's no democracy, the law doesn't work, everything is a pain, there are no human rights, and the strawberries have hormones." [End Page 402]
Behiç Ak is a cartoonist, architect, film director, and writer. His play The Building received a special award from the Turkish Ministry of Culture in 1993. His film on the history of censorship in Turkish cinema was named best documentary at the Ankara film festival in 1994. He has also written and illustrated several children's books. His cartoon albums have been published in Turkey and Germany, and his cartoons have appeared in the daily Cumhuriyet since 1982.