Nostalgia for the Empire: The Politics of Neo-Ottomanism by M. Hakan Yavuz
Making a country great again is a theme for nationalist authoritarians. Across countries with past experience as great powers, nationalist politicians typically harken back to a golden age. In Nostalgia for Empire, Hakan Yavuz focuses on how this trend is playing out in Turkey, a nation that lost its empire a century ago and which is now ruled by a nationalist authoritarian who invokes nostalgia for the Ottoman era to buttress his power.
Yavuz delves into the social and political origins of expressions of nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire among various groups in Turkey. Exploring why and how certain segments of Turkish society has selectively brought the Ottoman Empire back into public consciousness, Yavuz traces how memory of the Ottoman period has changed. He draws from Turkish literature, mainstream history books, and other cultural products from the 1940s to the twenty-first century to illustrate the transformation. He finds that two key aspects of Turkish literature are, on the one hand, its criticism of the Jacobin modernization of Turkey under Ataturk, and on the other a desire to search the Ottoman past for an alternative political language.
Yavuz goes onto to explain how major political actors, including President Erdogan, utilize the concept of empire to craft distinctive conceptualizations of nationalism, Islam, and Ottomanism that exploit national nostalgia. As remembered today, the Ottoman past seems to be grounded in contemporary conservative Islamic values. The combination of these memories and values generates a portrait of Turkey as a victim of major powers, besieged by imagined enemies both internal and external. In mapping out how nostalgia is crafted and spread, this book not only sheds light on Turkey's unique case but also deepens our understanding of nationalism, religion, and modernity.