Istanbul Criteria: The Construction of a City’s Identity

Mar 14, 2011 16:00

Assistant Prof Nagihan Haliloglu

This paper is a study of how two contemporary Turkish novelists respond and contribute to the ways in which Istanbul is being re-inscribed into Turkish culture. When looking at their engagement with the different meanings and images that Istanbul has and continues to conjure up in Turkish and European minds, I use the concept of ‘Istanbul criteria’ which are proposed as a set of values or a way of living which is particular to Istanbul and which makes it a welcoming, urban space. The paper looks at the political and the intellectual environment in which the term ‘Istanbul criteria’ has gained currency by doing a close reading of three narratives: Elif Shafak’s Flea Palace, Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul and Gülse Birsel’s sitcom, European Side. I look at how these criteria and the space of Istanbul are conceived of in these narratives. I argue that in both these novels, the city serves as the ‘significant other’ in relation to which the narrators speak of themselves, a process through which they reveal their own epistemological background when they look at the city. I argue that while this epistemology is a republican rhetoric of loss for Pamuk, it is a dynamic field of heterodoxical urban legends for Shafak, and for Birsel, it is a postmodern ironic approach that negates any resolution.


Assistant Prof Nagihan Haliloglu

Alliance of Civilizations Institute, Istanbul


London Centre for Social Studies (LCSS)

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