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Imaginative Encounters: Turkish Neo-Ottomanist Dreams in the Balkans
Turkey’s international politics and its political, financial, and cultural investments in South Eastern Europe, known as the Balkans, are often referred to as “Soft Power” in the European media. It is argued that Erdoğan-led Turkey’s Islamist imperial dreams started gaining political currency amongst Sunni Muslims in the former Ottoman lands during the last decade. Indeed, a series of neo-Ottomanist cultural projects of the Turkish state is observed across post-Ottoman geographies. These include media projects, period dramas followed closely in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, social activities held at Yunus Emre culture centers, and philanthropy projects. Turkey presents the boldest and most focused case in imperial revivalist formations of (multiple) Islamisms. However, a large proportion of such analytical narratives demonstrate a limited understanding of the minority Muslims in Eastern Europe. By focusing specifically on the fieldwork in North Macedonia with Albanian, Torbeshi, and Turkish Muslims, this paper traces the imaginative encounters, where the political dreams, longings, aspirations, and desires of local native Muslims and the Turkish state have met and conversed with each other. How do various Muslim groups perceive the presence of the Turkish state in North Macedonia? This is part of a broader research that studies Turkey’s various enterprise in post-Ottoman geographies that ethnographically studies how notions of the past are recalibrated for futuristic projects.
International Relations/Affairs
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