Fidan Cheikosman

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

Background

Fidan is a second 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 doctoral research, Fidan is focusing on what Roland Barthes has termed "the significance of the insignificant." In what ways can the banality of the everyday become the keeper of cultural memory, the definer of national identity, and the inciter of collective nostalgia between private and public city spaces? These themes prevail the postmodern Turkish literary canon, evoking questions about the significance of the insignificant of the quotidian. Through their metafictions, Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak become the archivists of their homeland, Istanbul, within which these sociologies are subverted and confronted. Her research creates a comparative framework to analyze the nexus of national identity and cultural memory that is facilitated through the dialectical relations within urban landscape, and through everyday encounters with reality and the repressed psyche across time. The intersection of literature and nation within an aesthetic and sociological framework speak to fluctuant political moments, conflicting relationships between extreme Islam and extreme secularism, concern with class and gender inequality, urban violence motivated by ultranationalism, social exclusion, nostalgia for the past, and inconsistent national identity. Real architecture spaces that physically exist are alluded to and juxtaposed against the fictionality of characters, sometimes intersecting and other times coexisting to reflect upon ideas of national belonging and shared lives with a common future that questions the effects of geography on fate. The narrator, fictional characters, and setting grow into embodiments of traits common in Turkish civilization - imitation, misfortune, dilapidation, inauthenticity, and forged identity. This has led researchers to return to long-debated questions of belonging. Sequences of events and insignificant, everyday practices are filtered through the consciousness of each story’s protagonist, producing a tempting and ambiguous reimagining of reality. Literary techniques transform the novel from art form into archival document representative of dissidence against an increasingly hegemonic state that dictates Turkishness, represses objection, and seeks to render Turkey an isolated, homogenous nation. 

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
  • Literary and aesthetic responses to authoritarian regimes in Turkey following the formation of the modern Turkish Republic 
  • Museum and archive studies 

Past project grants

March 2022 - May 2022 - Turing Scheme Grant

Conference details

“Eastern Tradition Against Western Modernity in Zülfü Livaneli’s ‘Bliss’.” East-West Literary Relations. University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, USA. 11-13 November, 2022.

"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. 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.