Streets of Memory
Landscape, Tolerance, and National Identity in Istanbul

Amy Mills

Nostalgia and the built environment in the contemporary Middle East


"Mills has painted an impressively vivid and coherent picture of the past and present of Kuzguncuk."
The New Republic

"It is striking that Mills, the foreign ethnographer, has managed to touch the soul of the city and the society at large, courageously confronting head on one of the most sensitive issues in Turkish society—the systematic bases of belonging and exclusion. . . .Mills's study will, I believe, be of poignant. . .interest to local readers with whom its themes will painfully reverberate as they now confront in other venues many of the very same issues she raises."
—Alan Duben, South European Society and Politics

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In this study of Kuzguncuk, known as one of Istanbul’s historically most tolerant, multiethnic neighborhoods, Amy Mills is animated by a single question: what does it mean to live in a place that once was—but no longer is—ethnically and religiously diverse?

“Turkification” drove out most of Kuzguncuk’s minority Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in the mid-twentieth century, but they left behind potent vestiges of their presence in the cityscape. Mills analyzes these places in a street-by-street ethnographic tour. She looks at how memory is conveyed and contested in Kuzguncuk’s built environment, whether through the popular television programs filmed on location there or in the cross-class alliance that sprung up to advocate the preservation of an old market garden. Overall, she finds that the neighborhood’s landscape not only connotes feelings of “belonging and familiarity” connected to a “narrative of historic multiethnic harmony” but also makes these ideas appear to be uncontestably real, or true. The resulting nostalgia bolsters a version of Turkish nationalism that seems cosmopolitan and benign. This study of memories of interethnic relationships in a local place examines why the cultural memory of tolerance has become so popular and raises questions regarding the nature and meaning of cosmopolitanism in the contemporary Middle East.

A major contribution to urban studies, human geography, and Middle East studies, Streets of Memory is imbued with a sense of genuine connection to Istanbul and the people who live there.

Page count: 308 pp.
7 b&w photos; 3 maps
Trim size: 6 x 9


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List price: $26.95

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Amy Mills is an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of South Carolina.