Kurdish Dengbêjî and the ‘Nostalgia Industry’

Building the dengbêj ‘tradition’ . . . must also be considered in a wider context. Interest in memory is rapidly spreading in contemporary Turkey and is helping people explore personal and collective histories. These memories are also — within certain limits — fostered by official narratives that ‘rediscover,’ for instance, an Ottoman and multicultural past. With the opening up of [Turkey’s] ‘Pandora’s Box of History’ since the 1990s, ‘a nostalgia industry’  has emerged, ostensibly offering up tidbits from a ‘lost past’ (Neyzi 2002: 142).

The interest of the state as well as associative or private sectors in such memorial narratives, policies and products, is observable today in Turkey as in many other parts of the world. EU-funded projects that openly aim at developing a ‘cultural dialogue’ promote an image of Turkey as a peaceful ‘cultural mosaic.’ But these cultures and this diversity, in the way they are exhibited and displayed, may also be frozen and innocent representations of a lost but also imagined past (De Certeau 1993). The way memories are remembered, traditions reinvented (as in the dengbêj’s case) often confirms this.

(Excerpted from The Invention of a Tradition: Diyarbakır’s Dengbêj Project by Clémence Scalbert-Yücel)

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