Crossing the Sacred/Secular Divide; Unraveling Turkish Identities

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This paper unpacks the ideas in the poem “Pull Down My Statues” by Süleyman Apaydın, to examine some common descriptors in use about modern Turkey. Taking his inspiration from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, Apaydın ponders the success of Atatürk’s vision, based on the idea of a secular/sacred divide. Combining this with the way travel in Turkey is heavily promoted using the same themes, I explore how this divide, with its underlying connotations of West versus East and modernity versus tradition (as found in Turkey’s Ottoman past), is applied to Turkish identity. Turks are commonly portrayed as a homogenous people only differentiated by their degree of religiosity, but I argue that this analysis is too simplistic. Turkish identity has never been based on a single clear cut model, and this is becoming obvious as more traditional Islamic ways of life are being reworked by new forms of Islam based on capitalism. Consequently, although it is important to acknowledge Turkey’s past, looking to history for a way to steer through the complexities of the present is no longer useful or even relevant.


The Journal of Linguaculture Centre for (Inter)cultural and (Inter)lingual Research, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi

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