Imagining the Turkish House: Collective Visions of Home

Imagining the Turkish House: Collective Visions of Home

Imagining the Turkish House: Collective Visions of Home

Imagining the Turkish House: Collective Visions of Home

Synopsis

"Houses can become poetic expressions of longing for a lost past, voices of a lived present, and dreams of an ideal future." Carel Bertram discovered this truth when she went to Turkey in the 1990s and began asking people about their memories of "the Turkish house." The fondness and nostalgia with which people recalled the distinctive wooden houses that were once ubiquitous throughout the Ottoman Empire made her realize that "the Turkish house" carries rich symbolic meaning. In this delightfully readable book, Bertram considers representations of the Turkish house in literature, art, and architecture to understand why the idea of the house has become such a potent signifier of Turkish identity.

Bertram's exploration of the Turkish house shows how this feature of Ottoman culture took on symbolic meaning in the Turkish imagination as Turkey became more Westernized and secular in the early decades of the twentieth century. She shows how artists, writers, and architects all drew on the memory of the Turkish house as a space where changing notions of spirituality, modernity, and identity- as well as the social roles of women and the family- could be approached, contested, revised, or embraced during this period of tumultuous change.

Excerpt

There is a distinctive type of house that once was found wherever the Ottomans lived. From the seventeenth century up until the first days of the twentieth century, when regions like Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia, and Turkey were claiming a private title to their own part of this once great empire, timber-framed houses with protruding upper stories characterized a wide landscape, giving it a distinctive Ottoman stamp. Although these houses shared a common style, this book is not about their architectural vocabulary but about the way this type of house came to be imagined poetically at a turning point in Turkish history, and about the people who created and understood its poetic impact. At a higher level, this book addresses the powerful way in which the concept of home inhabits our memory and our imagination, and in so doing how it becomes a muse that can shape our personal and shared identities.

The project for this book began when I was a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey in 1993, investigating, as an Islamic art historian, the architecture of what by then was known as “the Turkish house.” People were forever asking what a foreigner like me was doing in Turkey, and my simple answer was that I had come to do research on the Turkish house. What I found, to my surprise, was that I had only to utter those three words to have my interlocutors' faces become positively beatific. in fact, I came to expect a glow, as they repeated the words with a reverent love: “the Turkish house.….” After the glow, and a pause, would come stories about a specific house they knew, or one they had . . .

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