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Reviewed by:
  • The Politics of Culture in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus: Performing the Left since the Sixties ed. by Leonidas Karakatsanis, Nikolaos Papadogiannis
  • John Sakkas (bio)
Leonidas Karakatsanis and Nikolaos Papadogiannis, editors, The Politics of Culture in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus: Performing the Left since the Sixties. Routledge Advances in Mediterranean Studies 4. Abingdon: Routledge. 2017. Pp. xv + 322. 20 illustrations. Cloth $155.

Although issues of cultural history and collective memory have been focused on Western Europe and North and Latin American countries, not enough attention has been paid to cultural practices, including left-wing ones, in other regions. The Politics of Culture in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus: Performing the Left since the Sixties intends to fill this gap by focusing on Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. These countries were chosen because left-wing groups there developed not only due to relatively similar conditions but also through their interconnections. The chronological emphasis is on the 1960s, which are treated as constituting a distinctive period—one that signaled a number of developments affecting left-wing collective action in diverse ways during the subsequent decades and in some cases up until today.

The novelty of this volume lies in the fact that it examines the left in three Eastern Mediterranean countries from alternative perspectives. It tries to move beyond national borders and identifications, as well as beyond rigid political or ideological boundaries. Its contributors follow “antireductionist” approaches advocated by Nicholas Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry Ortner (1993), whereby culture is not merely a reflection of a given material condition, but rather a defining component of the entire array of social relations, including political activity. They probe the practices—both everyday activities and institutionalized rituals—and symbols that give meaning to left-wing rhetoric and action. They position culture to performance in two ways: they examine either performances/making of left-wing culture(s) or broader culture(s) in left-wing performances. Such a dialogue between culture and performance is reflected in the division of the volume into four parts. [End Page 193]

Left-wing culture is experienced through specific emotions and memory practices (Part 1), through specific vectors (such as art) linked with certain senses (Part 2), through specific conceptions of time (Part 3), and in specific spaces (Part 4). Part 1 shows how left-wing memories of violence are steeped in an ensemble of emotions linked with dispossession, which range from fear to hope. Part 2 situates art in its social context and examines the practices and symbols through which it acquires meaning. Part 3 addresses the left-wing discourses on nation, while part 4 addresses the relationship between the (re)making of space and the connectivities among left-wing subjects in diverse contexts—be they student festivals, the shanty towns of Istanbul, or the Buffer Zone in Nicosia.

The volume ends with the section titled “Beyond Concluding,” which includes the editors’ own afterword and an interview with two young intellectuals who have knowledge of, and involvement in, the social movements that traverse the political borders of those countries on which the volume focuses. This section connects the themes with which the volume engages—such as memory and loss, art as politicizing culture between traditions and modernities, and the making of identities through space—by projecting them onto the present and the future of left-wing politics in the region.

One of the most interesting issues discussed in the volume is the relationship of the left in the area under study to the performative experiences of the nation. The term nation is a notoriously amorphous word, and it is not clear to me how this term (and nationalism) is understood by the contributors. The editors argue—correctly—that an allegiance between the left and the nation is not antithetical and incompatible. The left resignified some of the core components of the dominant nationalist discourse and combined them with anti-imperialist language. This synthesis of nationalism and anti-imperialism served as a means of challenging authoritarianism but at the same time excluded ethnic Others—as in the case of Greek nationalism, with which the left-wing AKEL flirted at the expense of the existence of the Turkish-Cypriots. However, the phenomenon of anti...


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