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

"Amy Mills deeply and carefully explicates the place of landscape and the importance of place in mediating multiple identities, ranging from the personal to the national. She is particularly good at using ethnographic fieldwork to demonstrate the on-the-ground manner in which landscape works."
—Richard H. Schein, editor of Landscape and Race in the United States

"Streets of Memory is a powerful ethnography of spatial relations and social memory in contemporary Istanbul. Beautifully written and original, this book is a most welcome contribution to social geography in Turkey and the Middle East."
Esra Özyürek, author of Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey

"Streets of Memory makes a novel contribution to the study of national identity in Turkey by locating it in urban space and thereby spatializing the making and maintaining of the nation through urban residents’ everyday practices. It also demonstrates very well the connections between the production of national identity and that of urban space through its focus on gentrification as a process in which local history becomes cultural commodity; thus, it also contributes to the literature on gentrification in İstanbul."
New Perspectives on Turkey

"This is an intriguing, multilayered ethnography of Kuzguncuk, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, with a rich multiethnic past that continues to cast shadows on the present . . . [Mills'] integration of human stories with the geographical and architectural landscape offers a model of a complex cultural analysis."

"Mills’s book is a most welcome addition to the sparse study of urban spaces in Turkey; it ably articulates the process of national colonization in one specific context while raising very interesting and yet unaddressed questions as to how this nationalizing process occurred elsewhere and across time."
Nationalities Papers

"Streets of Memory is a riveting read, providing the reader with rich ethnographic data and an in-depth analysis of the consequences of nationalist policies as experienced by individuals and communities. Mills' work is certainly a much needed shift in the study of nations and nationalism, which, until recently, has focused more on macro-level analyses."
—Yesim Bayar, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism

"[A]rchitects and scholars will benefit tremendously from Streets of Memory in understanding how urban space and residents are interconnected, how the urban environment is constantly reproduced by the cultural practice of residents, and how urban space in return shapes the residents' memories."
—Esra Akcan, International Journal of Islamic Architecture

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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


List price: $69.95

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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.