Zeynep Kezer's broad and critical study focuses on the building of the new Turkish republic in the 1920s and 1930s. Hers is a literal use of the term 'built' in the sense that she shows how the space that was left behind from the Ottoman Empire was reorganized completely in this period. She does a very good job of showing how this rebuilding was a sustained effort at erasing the traces of the old society and culture. We have here a truly original contribution to the history of modern Turkey.
Building Modern Turkey offers a critical account of how the built environment mediated Turkey’s transition from a pluralistic (multiethnic and multireligious) empire into a modern, homogenized nation-state following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Zeynep Kezer argues that the deliberate dismantling of ethnic and religious enclaves and the spatial practices that ensued were as integral to conjuring up a sense of national unity and facilitating the operations of a modern nation-state as were the creation of a new capital, Ankara, and other sites and services that embodied a new modern way of life. The book breaks new ground by examining both the creative and destructive forces at play in the making of modern Turkey and by addressing the overwhelming frictions during this profound transformation and their long-term consequences. By considering spatial transformations at different scales—from the experience of the individual self in space to that of international geopolitical disputes—Kezer also illuminates the concrete and performative dimensions of fortifying a political ideology, one that instills in the population a sense of membership in and allegiance to the nation above all competing loyalties and ensures its longevity.
Zeynep Kezer offers a dazzling array of sources to reveal the untidy process by which Republican ideals of a modern urban life and a new political culture were translated into built form. A must-read for those interested in the relation between nationalism, modernity, and urban space.