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Guest lecture: Queer Archives and the Politics of Historiography in Turkey

19.06.2019 | 18:00

How did queer intellectuals who experienced the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey develop unorthodox archives and alternative accounts of history, and how have their works gained renewed importance in contemporary Turkey? This presentation explores these processes by focusing on the popular historian Reşad Ekrem Koçu (1905-1975).

Characterized by a profound sense of post-imperial melancholia, Koçu’s canon explores the history of everyday life in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, with a focus on the lives of abject figures and queer sexualities. Contrary to Turkey’s official historiography paradigm, which defined the inception of the Republic as a radical and revolutionary break from the Empire, Koçu argued for continuity. Moreover, while the official historiographical discourse identified the Empire with backwardness and ignorance, Koçu presented it as an exciting land of curiosities, seething with queer pleasures. In addition to Ottoman queer cultures, Koçu also documented his own time. He thus produced a rich yet underexploited resource on queer lives and cultural production in Turkey in the twentieth century.

This presentation will analyze the queer challenge to the nation-state in Koçu’s works. It will examine how this queer canon enabled an eroticized engagement with Ottoman history, and how it can contribute to the current historical justice efforts involving Turkey. A close reading of Koçu’s works will show how this queer historiography project was characterized by ambivalence rather than an ultimate commitment to the goals of liberal politics. Finally, the presentation will explore how a conservative and Sunni Islamist formulation of neo-Ottomanism emerged as Turkey’s new hegemonic historiography paradigm under the Justice and Development Party regime since 2002, and how Koçu’s queer canon has gained renewed significance.


Rüstem Ertuğ Altınay completed his PhD in Performance Studies at New York University in 2016. He is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at Sabancı University. Ertuğ’s primary areas of research are queer and feminist performance and literature, theories of media and performance, memory studies, and material culture, with a focus on Turkey. With Professor Hülya Adak, Ertuğ has recently co-edited a special issue on Turkey and its diasporas for Comparative Drama. He is now co-editing two special issues on archives for The Journal of Popular Culture and Archives and Records, and completing a book on fashion and the performance of citizenship in Turkey. Ertuğ is also a playwright and translator.

Zeit & Ort

19.06.2019 | 18:00

Fabeckstr. 23-25, 14195 Berlin
Raum 1.2052