Ayse_Oncu.doc - 11 Becoming\"Secular Muslims Yaar Nuri ztrk as a Super-subject on Turkish Television Aye nc The phenomenal expansion of transnational

Ayse_Oncu.doc - 11 Becoming"Secular Muslims Yaar Nuri ztrk...

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11 Becoming "Secular Muslims": Yaşar Nuri Öztürk as a Super-subject on Turkish Television Ayşe Öncü The phenomenal expansion of transnational media markets throughout the 1990s has unleashed two contradictory tendencies in different parts of the world. On the one hand, the visual technologies and commodity logic of popu- lar media have ruptured the seamless totality and imagined homogeneity of na- tional cultures by lending voice and visibility to a plurality of alternative politi- cal visions. Television, in particular, with its ontology of "liveness" and lexicon of plentitude and choice—"free" entertainment, "free" opinions, "free" rights— has made it increasingly difficult to harness the dispersal of cultural identities in the public realm. The production of national subjects has become fraught with ambiguities. It is now commonplace to argue that developments in global media culture have eroded state hegemony in the cultural realm, making the fragmentation and dispersal of cultural identities inevitable. Simultaneously, however, the explosive growth of commercial media have brought into the foreground new modes of identification with the abstract na- tion. The nation assumes a form of paramount reality, as its icons and narrative tropes circulate in an endless variety of commodity forms, across consumer and media markets. Belief in "the people" is reborn in two minutes of television time, through the remarkable achievements of individuals, be they football players, international award winners, or ordinary people who succeed in the face of insurmountable odds. The idea that the nation exists as a totality, and that "we" are in it, is confirmed daily as news reports identify the adversaries/ enemies who threaten its integrity, who endanger its well-being, health, and morals. This mode of linking to the abstract nation reaffirms "the people," without, however, the imagination of a collective agency. It has come under criticism as "consumer citizenship" among social analysts, and embraced as positive nationalism" by the transnational advertising industry. The unfolding of the 1990s, then, has accentuated two opposing tendencies inherent in the current expansion of transnational media markets. How the en- suing tensions of fragmentation and affirmation have been played out in differ- ent national/cultural sites, is historically contingent and politically mediated.
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For the political site of struggles unleashed by these opposing trends continues to be the national, not the post-national or transnational. What follows is an attempt to pursue this line of thinking in the context of Turkey's "televisual moment"—roughly ten years in chronological time. Specifi- cally I am interested in how one of the most trenchant motifs of Turkish na- tionalism, we are all secular Muslims, has been simultaneously destabilized and reconfigured in the political conjuncture of the late 1990s. My main concern is not the insurgent politics of Islam per se or how it has challenged the mytholo-
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