Value of Heritage in Turkey
History and Politics of Turkey’s World Heritage Nominations
Keywords:heritage, identity, nationalism, Turkey-EU relations, Turkish history, Turkish-Islamic synthesis
Following Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession into the European Union, EU expansion has reached its final frontier with the process of Turkey’s prospective integration, through which both Europe’s and Turkey’s respective cultural identities have been under negotiation. From a European perspective, Turkey, with its culture, religion, and pseudo-democracy, may appear seriously to challenge some of the most fundamental values of Europeanness. In fact, the very same argument is being made by Turkish politicians and members of the Turkish public, who fear that the nation will lose its unique characteristics in the process of becoming European. Taking its cue from the premise that national identities are continuously re-configured within heritage discourses, this study attempts to portray how values of heritage have become entangled in Turkey’s century-long search for an identity within the Western civilized world while continuing to protect its core cultural values. This struggle for self-definition is represented in the context of the history of Turkey’s international relations with Europe, specifically following the 1980 coup d’etat and Turkey’s first nominations to the World Heritage List in 1984. It is argued that the ambiguity of the EU’s definition of ‘Europeanness’ has continued to highlight those elements in the heritage and identity discourses that would define ‘Turkishness’ in opposition.
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