Monday, 18 August 2014

""Faruk Birtek: Post-script - Interstatiality and the gaze

The inspiration for this study came from our reading of Muhammed
Assad`s  Road to Mecca. We were struck by the beauty of his
description of the desert, of the Berber, of the Arab. We were struck
by his passion, his appreciative understanding, his love for these
objects of his adoration as well as his undeclared, implicit distance
from them that gives him his extraordinary gaze. We were struck by
this double phenomenon of self-immersion as well as, and at the same
time of his own self decontextualization, both from the origins of his
journey, namely the Austrian occident, and from his new found nativity
in his new abode, the Arabian desert and Islam.

We wondered whether we could trace a similar gaze in the works of
Ritter, Spitzer, Auerbach, and Fuchs. There already existed
biographiıcal studies of the German speaking exiles in Turkey in the
1930s. A very large number of academics, professionals, intellectuals
found a new home in Turkey in their escape from the Nazi regime. They
contributed immensely to the formation of the new Turkish Republic,
whether in the legal profession, medicine, or in the academia. Some of
their prominence continued after the War when they returned back to
Germany and actively contributed to the formation of the new German
Republic.  Our concern here has been different. We were exclusively
interested in what one would call in German, the work in the
humanistics , or more roughly in Englısh, in the  humanities to see
how much ıf  any infiuence we could detect in the works of these
scholars, of their exile in Turkey. We could not have expected the
same immersion we observed ın Assad of our scholars in Turkey, nor
that gaze we noted emanating from his interstitial habitus. Istanbul
was not the desert. İt was too cosmopolıtan to envelope its habitants.
The only one who seem to display a gaze similar to Asad was perhaps
Fuchs. Though a relatıvely minor actor among our four characters, we
have gıven him more pages in the book, to include some of his
paintings and sketches of the arid lands of Anatolia and some of ıts
people because for us it paralleled Assad’s vivid descriptions of the
desert and the desert people which we said had been our point of
departure. Although Istanbul was no desert to envelope Fuchs or the
others, it also had its particular nature to set the ground for the
interstatiality we were pursuing to find in our authors. The
interstatiality İstanbul yielded we thought best revealed in the two
tempers of the cıty, in the very real sense of the word, not a
metaphor at all, but the determinant of real, lived experiences. When
the North wınd blew, which bore its Greek name, Poyrazhe the city
Occidentalized, fresh in its nature, clear in its diction, straight in
its direction; when Poyraz blew things worked better, ships more in
time, people more industrious. For that we called it ın the book the
west wind. Its influence in the works of the state spread from
Istanbul all the way to Aleppo. When the south wınd blew, lodos from
the Greek nodos wills melted, people spread, lethargy and bad-humour
got coupled, ships appeared to need more effort to keep their
schedule. Trains did not want to move. People did not want to
converse. Chıldren became more iritent. This was Istanbul’s particular
orient and was felt as far as Macedonia as Skopje orientalized.  Dıd
our authors find this duality of their habitus a hidden source for
their scholarly vision that had such major impact in their realms of
scholarship ?. The only specific mention of their peculiar situ for an
influence on their work could be found in something most unrelated to
our depiction of the duality we observed for İstanbul.  Adorno on
wrıtıng on Auerbach mentions how the conditions of  Istanbul being
left without a real library might have helped him to write the Mimesis
in its undivided focus. That very material condition Adorno describes
however for us is a good metaphor for the particular duality Istanbul
in its weather constanly bears.   Here we were ınterested in the space
between the orient and the occıdent, the ınterstatıal gap whıch we
observed ın Assad’s self-decontextualızatıon but now in a very
particular and real sense. We thought this very real climatological
duality peculiar to Istanbul, where neither the southwind nor the
northwind can ever fully dominate, and that in each occassion its
antithesis only remains at bay waiting to pervail momentarily sets the
context of a peculiar  type of decontextualization.  Istanbul, a
geography where both the east and the west are both emphemeral, a
geography where the winds constantly decenter its logic might have
given a particular autonomy to its occidental visitors who can remain
alien and native at the same time.

We wondered whether this in-between space might have privileged our
authors for the outstretch of theır scholarly vision. The artıcles
above  by Stauth, Violan, Ozbek and to a degree Berman touch upon that

(This text was published as an introduction to a collection of articles on "Instanbul (eds. Faruk Birtek, Georg Stauth, Transkript, Bielefeld 2007) " in German .)