In contemporary Turkey, populism goes hand in hand with neo-Ottoman nostalgia. They make a stigmatized duo, as nostalgia is interpreted as lingering in the past and populism is deemed as the opium of the uninformed, emotional masses. In this paper, I complicate this vision through an ethnographic discourse analysis of the 2016 Conquest of Constantinople Rally, organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). I show how nostalgia helps boost the authenticity claim that social performances seek to achieve. In a ritualistic setting, the rally portrays a Manichean worldview predating to Ottoman times, underlines the power of the “people” against nefarious others, and is organized around a leader who is posited as a savior. By relying on forty-five in-depth interviews in five cities, I investigate the extent to which this social performance convinces the audience. Three interpretative perspectives emerged from participants’ responses: Spectacle Seekers see the rallies as a necessity and as providing emotional uplift as the state’s duty; Appraising Skeptics approve the commemoration, yet are skeptical of the authenticity of the effort; and History Guardians deem the Ottoman past as sacred and regard the AKP’s use of it as emotional manipulation.
American Journal of Cultural Sociology – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2020
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