The conquest of hearts: the central role of Ottoman nostalgia within contemporary Turkish populism

  • Yağmur KarakayaEmail author
Original Article


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.


Populism Nostalgia Emotions Turkey 



I thank Ron Aminzade, Alejandro Baer, Giancarlo Casale, Jack Delehanty, Penny Edgell, Teresa Gowan, Patricia Lorcin, Alex Manning, MJ Maynes, Victoria Piehowski, Joachim Savelsberg, Evan Stewart, Caty Taborda-Whitt, and J. Siguru Wahutu for their constructive feedback. I also thank AJCS Editor Jeffrey Alexander, Managing Editor Anne Marie Champagne, and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and advice on earlier versions of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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