Underground Culture in the Late Ottoman Empire and Turkey

Supervised by: Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika

Main collaborator: Dr. Timour Muhidine (INaLCO)

Duration: 2013 – 2020

In this research area, which was established as part of an international network, cultural phenomena are explored beyond the cultural and social mainstream in Turkey to better understand the “other” Istanbul and the “other” Turkey and thus the dynamics of social and cultural developments in Turkey. The time frame ranges from the late Ottoman period to the present day. The main disciplinary areas are literature, modern art history, and anthropology. Along with Turkish (incl. Doç. Dr. Hülya Adak), German, and French colleagues (IFEA and INALCO), the project also includes the participation of Prof. Dr. Laurent Mignon (Oxford).

Five thematic axes were agreed upon, which so far have only been partly carried out as individual projects:

  1. Literature: key authors (from Neyzen Tevfik to Küçük İskender), trash literature (since the late 1990s), the feminist underground, gay literature, etc.
  2. Publishing: Fanzines, underground “chic” publications (Norgunk, 6:45, Marjinal Kitap, etc.), and anarchist publications (printed and online).
  3. Visual arts: caricatures, painting (Yüksel Arslan and Cihat Burak as classic examples), and “outsider art” as a newcomer in the Turkish art scene, along with experimental cinema as a further example of this particular aesthetic.
  4. Sociology/anthropology: “youth tribes” like motorcycle clubs, anarchist groups, which flourished in the environment of the Gezi protests, the “classic underworld,” underclasses and crooks (Kabadayı, Apaşlar, Apaçi), and the widespread LGBT culture.
  5. Music (Martin Greve/Fabio Salomoni): “classic” Rebetiko (19th–20th c.), rap and heavy metal, but also the music of Afro-Turks.