The Ceaseless Battle of Inclusion and Exclusion

The Turkish press endorses a feeling of identification with Europe while at the same time engendering a sense of hostility. The dominant negative perception of Turkey by Europeans, as a "threat" that would change the union's values and could easily become a burden on its structure and capacity as a "large, poor, Muslim" country (Negrine et al. 2008), enhances the sense of rejection and exclusion among Turkish people. This instigates a strong sense of frustration and resentment caused by being subjected to an incessant process of othering by Europeans who oppose Turkey's membership in the EU; hence the newspapers, especially the nationalist ones, continuously attempt to reinvigorate national pride by reiterating successful stories of individuals in tandem with a reconstructed glorious past.

"Narratives not only endow particular events with meaning, thus helping us understand and make sense of the social world, but also serve as tools of identity construction" (Mihelj et al. 2009: 59). Accordingly news coverage in the Turkish press concerning Turkish German filmmakers constitutes a metanarrative that serves to stimulate national pride. Of all the newspapers examined, the mainstream ones with a populist and nationalist attitude persistently accentuate the Turkishness of the filmmakers in question. In a parallel manner, when a Turkish German filmmaker makes displeasing comments that would hurt this sense of national pride or endanger the reputation of Turkish identity, the overwhelming reaction of the Turkish press is disavowal and exclusion, an emphasis on the other side of the hyphenated identity. Hence the reception continually wavers between ambivalent commentaries about inclusion in and exclusion from the Turkish nation state.

"What makes hybridity dubious is its complete dependence on location and affiliation—be it ethnic, national, religious, gendered, or even linguistic—in order to dislocate and disaffiliate" (Mani 2007: 125-26). Hybridity thereby implies instability and negotiation. It neither provides straightforward lines of affiliation, nor "does it resolve the tension between two cultures" (Bhabha 1994: 113). Turkish German filmmakers can be considered culturally hybrid subjects, but Turkish journalists use the ambiguity of hybridity to reinvigorate national identity.

The recurrent attempts to reassure readers of Turkey's national worthiness imply a widespread lack of self-esteem. But why does Turkishness require such an approval at all? The explanation for this draws on two closely interlinked issues: first, the impact of the totalitarian modernization project introduced by the founders of the republic, which ultimately cut the entire nation's connection with its traditions and history; and second, the resultant identity crisis that the Turkish nation has endured.

Bozkurt Guven^ suggests that a sense of inferiority has shaped the selfperception of the Turkish nation from the beginning, for the term "Turk" is considered to be relatively new and without an efficiently written history (2005: 19-52).13 Ottoman identity was not simply associated with Turkish identity (Lewis 1988); the theorization of Turkishness was introduced by Turkish politicians and theorists at the beginning of the twentieth century.14 The construction of an imagined Turkish identity was also shaped by the state-controlled curriculum of modernization that aspired to create a cohesive society based upon values exported from the West. Therefore, the foundation of the Turkish nation state was closely interconnected with the ideal of Westernization while erasing the memories of the Ottoman Empire. Having taken European modernity as a reference point to define and understand its own experiences, the historical, intellectual, and political trajectories of Turkey have been determined by its dependence on Europe (Gole 1998: 58-59). The superior position, however contradictory, willingly ceded to Europe has inevitably brought about a process of self- othering. The result has been a continuous concerted effort to resemble Europeans, to become part of Europe, to be recognized by it. Turkish identity is perpetually imagined and constructed in relation to Europe, leading to an ambivalent sense of self because Turkey has long been denied any proximity by its everlasting object of desire.

Consequently the constant reproduction and reaffirmation of national identity has become necessary in mitigating the concomitant feeling of inferiority toward the idealized European Other. The mundane nature of nationalism epitomized by routine symbols such as national songs, sporting events, and flags requires a special awareness of discourses that reproduce nation and nationhood undetected. "Banal nationalism," as conceptualized by Michael Billig (1995), "covers all those unnoticed, routine practices, ideological habits, beliefs and representations that make the daily reproduction of nations ... possible" (Yumul and Ozkmmli 2000: 788). In this context, the press acts as a very efficient apparatus to flag nationhood on a daily basis.15 There is a discernible continuity concerning this process as the earlier press coverage of Turkish filmmakers in Germany registers similar patterns.

The 1980s were a difficult period for Turkey, marked by political and social turmoil in the aftermath of the third coup d'etat in the country's history. Busy with domestic problems, governments could not prioritize Turkish-EU relations; hence the lack of editorial interest in the issue. Instead news stories about neo-Nazi attacks targeting Turks in Germany and the mistreatment of Turkish guestworkers by German authorities and society predominated from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. Mainstream papers such as Hurriyet and Sabah reported these events in narratives that constructed a familiar discursive universe of "us" versus "them." Personalized sentimental stories such as "This Baby is Orphaned by Skinheads" (Hurriyet 1986a), "Skinhead Violence is Spreading" (Hurriyet 1986b) and "Heroic Turk" (Gunaydin 1986) appeared on the front pages and were used to enhance the impact of comments on the German judiciary system being unjust and discriminatory. While different in content, the discursive strategies of the mainstream newspapers in the past exhibit certain correlations with those of the present: a nationalist political discourse based on binary oppositions frames the circulation of images of Turks as victimized subjects and/or undervalued national heroes.

Despite an intense interest in the sociopolitical situation concerning the Turkish community in Germany, none of the papers, Cumhuriyet being the exception, devoted much attention to Tevfik Baser, who happened to represent the Turkish community in his social realistic films at the time. This noticeable neglect can be explained through the political pressures on publishers, namely strict censorship and intimidation policies, broad-spectrum depoliticization of society, and the privatization and tabloidization of the press. More importantly, Baser was seen as a leftist intellectual, employing a critical cinematic language to deal with serious controversial issues such as patriarchal Turkish culture, the resultant oppression of women, and the experience of Turkish political exiles forced to flee the country as a result of the last military coup. All these were subjects the government of Turkey would rather cover up than reveal. Only the Kemalist Cumhuriyet, which was associated with the leftist rebellion at the time, put an emphasis on Baser and his films. However critically informed and analytical the reviews were, it is still striking that the interest in the filmmaker increased only during international film festivals when his films were found worthy of nomination.16 He was continuously addressed as a successful young Turkish filmmaker, and discussed only in terms of his impact on European film critics and audiences.

Newspapers with varied ideological affiliations continue to subscribe to differing interpretations of the hyphenated identities of Turkish German filmmakers today. The case of Sibel Kekilli exemplifies the link between national pride and the achievements of prominent, successful Turks in interesting ways. As soon as the German tabloid Bild disclosed the private life of the lead actress in Head-On, revealing that she used to work as a porn actress, the Turkish press vacillated in their response. The otherwise proudly patriarchal and traditional Turkish press acted rather unexpectedly on this issue. In his article entitled "Crusades against Kekilli," Yal^in Dogan (2004) condemned the German press for covering the issue in a very derogatory manner. The attacks on Kekilli were treated as if they were a matter of national importance, and consequently, she had to be protected against the evil unleashed by the "other" nation's press. Dogan alleged that the German press did not want to acknowledge the success of a Turkish film and, for that reason, despicably assaulted the actress to undermine the credibility of the film. Likewise, Fatih Altayli, who is infamous for his sexist as well as nationalist attitude, commented on the same issue by surprisingly taking sides with Kekilli (2004; compare Arslan 2006). This unexpected response is clearly driven by national sensitivities: Kekilli, in her relationship with the critical German press, stands for the entire Turkish nation, and therefore Altayli readily reframes his presumed ideals and values to save the country's honor.

Liberal mainstream Radikal appears to emphasize the issue of national identity and multiple belongings despite readily categorizing Turkish German filmmakers under the umbrella term "Turks" regardless of their ethnic origin or more complicated affiliations. Accordingly journalists often question filmmakers about their sense of belonging in articles investigating their transnational and/or hybrid identities. The second-generation filmmaker Ayse Polat's response to a question about how she describes her identity underscores the complexity of the issue, for she states that she is simultaneously German, Turkish, and Kurdish. Moreover, being a Shiite, as she stresses, constitutes her sub-identity (Basut^u 2004). Similarly the third-generation Turkish German filmmaker Ozgur Yildirim is sometimes questioned on his identity (Ak^a 2008). The filmmaker's comments on the issue shed light on the changing self-perception of the Turkish community in Germany inasmuch as he claims not to be interested in the Turkish versus German division at all. Another Turkish German filmmaker who is repeatedly exposed to questions about his "double occupancy" is Thomas Arslan. He, too, insistently refuses to define himself according to national affiliations (Sirin 2008). Unlike Fatih Akin, less popular Turkish German filmmakers, who still seem to be confined to a niche, appear to act much more courageously. As a result, they are neglected by the mainstream populist nationalist or rightwing papers in Turkey.

Leftwing newspapers engage in a discussion more attentive to ethnic identity than the emphasis on the nationality of Turkish German filmmakers. Evrensel systematically contests the homogenizing classifications of Turkish German filmmakers merely as Turks. Instead, the paper generally addresses them as filmmakers originating from Turkey, which conclusively puts the emphasis on the country of origin rather than on nationality. In this respect, filmmakers such as Zuli Aladag, Yuksel

Yavuz, and Ayse Polat are explicitly described as Kurdish. The paper attempts to construct a counternationalist discourse that challenges the attitude of the hegemonic Turkish press. In either way, the newspapers employ Turkish German filmmakers in order to establish their political narratives around national sensitivities.

Turkish German filmmakers attract more attention from the rightwing and political Islamist representatives of the Turkish press when the issue is their identity rather than their role in Turkish-EU relations. The most striking coverage in the far right paper Yeni Qag concerns Akin's declaration about his compulsory military service in Turkey. Akin controversially stated that he was a pacifist and would prefer to renounce his Turkish passport rather than do military service. Abdullah Ozdogan attacks Akin for being a traitor in a nationalist and populist text: "The name destiny gives to people is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. For instance, the biggest enemy of the Turks might have a Turkish name. Or destiny might give the name of a great Turkish soldier to someone who rascally tries to avoid military service" (Ozdogan 2007).17

Nezih Erdogan, elaborating on the same news item, argues that the author "conflates the values associated with national identity with the actual 'piece of paper' that he calls kimlik (identity) and states that if Akin were to give up his Turkish identity card, he would be renouncing his Turkish self" (2009: 33). Ozdogan warns Turkish readers about this "deviant traitor" who betrays his Turkish identity. Such a portrayal of Akin reflects a process of othering that ultimately constructs an image of him as a "fixed reality which is at once other and yet entirely knowable and visible" (Bhabha 1983: 21). This underlines Akin's hybridity that makes it possible for others to distil certain specificities of identity out of these hyphenated nationals. They can either be included through praise or excluded through othering.

The majority of the news coverage that prioritizes the national identity of the filmmakers in question serves to build a narrative that glorifies Turkish identity and endorses national pride. A readily available repertoire of discursive strategies has been employed since the early 1980s. Undermining the very components of the "sacred" and "inviolable" Turkish national identity, only the marginal leftist newspaper Evrensel and the political Islamist Zaman are distinguished from the rest with their challenging interpretation of identity. They highlight the complicated nature of identity and how it is shaped by a variety of factors such as ethnic, cultural, and religious allegiances. In brief, the general tendency in the Turkish press appears to prey on the ambiguous sense of belonging by Turkish German filmmakers.

In conclusion, the Turkish press cannot engage with these filmmakers on their own terms, but seeks to frame them in the context of Turkish concerns, predominantly over the relationship with Europe: firstly, in terms of the political negotiations with the EU, and secondly in terms of Turkish national identity and pride. In fact, both aspects are two sides of the same coin in so far as both are about combating a sense of inferiority with regard to Europe, which epitomizes civilization and modernity. In the 1980s the dominant narrative promulgated by the political classes was that of European discrimination against Turks, whereas now it seems opportune to promote the idea that the relationship between Turkey and Europe is growing stronger. While all newspapers subscribe to this agenda, there are nuanced differences that reflect the papers' political and ideological standpoints. The contestability of the filmmakers' hybrid identities lends itself well to strategic deployment by the press. The press can highlight different aspects selectively for their particular purposes, and most papers prefer to reduce these complex identities to monolithic ones. In a nutshell, the press uses the filmmakers both as supposed ambassadors in the context of EU relations, and as devices for exploring what Turkish identity is supposed to be.

 
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