Fidan Cheikosman

Thesis title: The Significance of the Insignificant of the Everyday in Elif Shafak and Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: A Study of Imaginary Turkishness from an Aesthetic, Geo-Political, and Historical Perspective

Background

Fidan is a third year PhD candidate in Comparative Literature (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies) at the University of Edinburgh. Her doctoral research is currently being supervised by Dr. Fabien Arribert-Narce and Dr.Ines Aščerić-Todd.

 

In her Comparative Literature dissertation, Fidan assesses the narration of Turkishness as a literary theme in Elif Shafak’s and Orhan Pamuk’s contemporary novels. Through three different avenues of theoretical study: aesthetic, geo-political, and historical, she evaluates how Shafak and Pamuk depict national identity in Turkey through descriptions of Turkish everyday life. The selected novels for this research in respective order includes:  "Istanbul: Memories and the City" (Pamuk), "The Bastard of Istanbul" (Shafak), "A Strangeness in My Mind" (Pamuk), "10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World: (Shafak), "The Black Book" (Pamuk), "Silent House" (Pamuk), "The Museum of Innocence" (Pamuk), "The Flea Palace" (Shafak), and "Three Daughters of Eve" (Shafak). Fidan's dissertation demonstrates how the Turkish novel frames complex, contradictory vignettes of Turkish everyday life in the city of Istanbul as a means to engage with the plurality of definitions that cause Turkishness to manifest itself as not monochrome, but rather an imaginary human construct that is facilitated by spatial and temporal realities. Fidan's research is informed by a multilayered framework that draws upon socio-cultural criticisms, the archiving of everyday life, interior monologues and stream of consciousness confessions; flashbacks to numerous points in Turkey’s history, political sensitivities, and various forms of allegorical references. She argues that Elif Shafak and Orhan Pamuk render the city of Istanbul as a protagonist in their novels as a means to negotiate with forms of Turkishness, which often takes the form of stories that are articulated by Istanbul’s geographical position and socio-cultural history. Shafak’s and Pamuk’s novels create a space within which to confront the hidden realities of Turkish everyday life that is often facilitated by fictional characters within Istanbul: cultural memory, violence against women, explicit gender boundaries, transnational relations, refugee exploitation, religious fundamentalism, and the importance of recurrent figures such as street vendors. Such themes appear throughout the Turkish novel as a means to present to the national and international audiences the various mechanisms that contribute to a nations identity. In doing so, fiction transcends its definitive purpose as a space of leisurely reading, and instead grows to have profound and intimate effects on readers in their understanding of the perceptual world as they experience it around them. This dissertation asks the following questions: how has the everyday had a profound impact on how the boundaries of identity are defined? Through their narrative structure, how do Elif Shafak and Orhan Pamuk narrate the lives of everyday Turkish citizens in their pursuit to archive the details often overlooked of everyday life? How does geography contribute to how Turkishness has been facilitated in the Turkish novel? As this dissertation argues, insignificant details and descriptions of seemingly banal, habitual, forgettable everyday experiences are illuminated in the Turkish novel as a means to draw profound illumination on the significance of this insignificance in the pursuit of Turkishness.

Qualifications

January 2021 - Present - PhD., Comparative Literature (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies), University of Edinburgh

September 2018 - May 2020 - M.S.c, Publishing: Print & Digital Media, New York University

September 2015 - May 2017 - BA, Magna Cum Laude, Departmental Honours, Comparative Literature, French Literature and Culture, University of California, Los Angeles 

Responsibilities & affiliations

May 2022 - Present - Member, Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association

February 2022 - Present - Member, Ottoman & Turkish Studies Association

February 2022 - Present - Member, Middle East Studies Association (MESA)

February 2022 - Present - Member, International Comparative Literature Association 

February 2022 - May 2022 - Independent Researcher, Department of Western Languages and Literatures, Boğaziçi University

Undergraduate teaching

2021 - French 1B Literature and Civilization 

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?

No

Research summary

Fidan's research interests and specializations are concentrated within the theoretical and methodological frameworks within the Turkish and larger Middle Eastern and Islamic context. At the moment, she is largely focused on the redefinition of Turkishness and Turkish identity, via contemporary Turkish literatures and everyday studies which she seeks to develop fictional discourse as valid sources of truth.  

 

  • Comparative Literature, Novels of dissidence in the Islamic world (particular works include those by Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak, Burhan Sönmez, Zülfu Livaneli, and Ahmet Altan)
  • Turkish Nationalism (Kemalism, Neo-Ottomanism)
  • East-West Literary Relations
  • Representations of Istanbul and urban space as determinants of individual and collective fate, observing the question: does geography equate to fate? 
  • Surrealist theory within everyday studies (particularly the works of André Breton, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, and Henri Lefebvre)
  • Geo-Political Studies
  • Gender Studies (Femicides, Honour Killings)
  • Literary and aesthetic responses to nation-forming policies 
  • Museum and archive studies 

Past project grants

March 2022 - May 2022 - Turing Scheme Grant

Conference details

"The Kemalist Illusion: A Comparative Tale of Nationalism Through Elif Shafak’s and Orhan Pamuk’s Non-Fiction." The Middle East in Myth and Reality. University of Iceland. Reykjavik, Iceland. 22-24 September 2022. 

“Literary Representations of Constantinople: Orhan Pamuk’s Ottoman Characters and their Western Travels.” Travelers in Ottoman Lands: The Balkans, Anatolia and Beyond. University of Sarajevo. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina . 24-27 August, 2022.

"Istanbul, A Metaphor City: A Literary Illustration of Turkishness." International Conference on Thinking the City through Fragmentation and Reconfiguration: Aesthetic and Conceptual Challenges. Colégio Almada Negreiros. Lisbon, Portugal. 01-03 June, 2022. 

"The Dangers of the Syrian Woman from the Lens of Mainstream Turkish Media." International Conference on Xenophobia in the Media. Sakarya University. Sakarya, Turkey. 30-31 May 2022. 

"But Where Are You Really From?: An Ode to Children of the Diaspora." National Black History Month Conference. Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. October 2021.