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Black Turks: (Self)representation at the Crossroads of the Ottoman Legacy and Contemporary African Migration

Kelly Brewer





My research project takes up questions of identity, representations and sense of place pertaining to the historical presence of Blacks in Turkey. It offers a fresh vantage point to study the (self)representation of blackness not only with respect to the literature on the African Diaspora, often considered within the framework of the Atlantic slave trade, but also with respect to “Black Europe” as a discourse situated on the porous and blurry boundaries between Christendom and the Islamic World, and East and West.

I address both the self-representation of Black Turks and the representation of blackness in contemporary Turkish society, intertwined as it is with the historic legacy of slavery and current-day African migration. The presence of a black community in the Turkish-Ottoman narrative has changed from a cultural position of permanence and belonging to one of transience and migration. Images of Black Turks have been displaced and dislocated through language transformations, shifting borders, population exchanges and Turkey’s repositioning toward forging a “European” identity and ethos since the decline of the Ottoman dynasty and the rise of Turkish Nationalism (the latter being one of the staple organizing principles for Turkish identity and citizenship).

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