Istanbul Chapters, and the Taksim Protest Article

It was interesting in Pamuk’s chapters reading about the difference between seeing Istanbul through the lens of melancholy as someone who lived there versus the melancholy described in the other works he mentioned of a tourist traveling through a poverty stricken area. How there was almost an honor in the type of melancholy felt by people who live in Istanbul, and how that cultural melancholy differs from solitary melancholy.

The article on the other hand described more of a pride in Istanbul’s history than the book did. The article made it seem like people didn’t want their history destroyed (and they won out).

To me, the book and the article seemed to contradict themselves in terms of Istanbul pride and melancholy. Nevertheless, they were both very interesting to read.


It was interesting how from the very first paragraph of the article, it brought up the concept of a Neo-Ottomanist vision for Erdogan. To re-fashion Taksim Square would cause his ascension to power and thus employ that Neo-Ottomanist vision unto Turkey and then excel the UN to take more notice of Turkey. My question, however, is if Erdogan did rise and this Neo-Ottomanist vision took place , would Turkey begin to mobilize and attempt to expand into an empire once again? That was the first question that arose in my mind because of the Middle East being on fire and ISIS causing cataclysmic damage to societies infrastructure in the Middle East.

Taksim: Forever Turkish

Reading Pamuk’s “Four Lonely Melancholic Writers” (Istanbul) was a delightful experience. His admiration for Sinasi Hisae, Yahya Kemal, Tanpinar, and Ekrem Kocu as writers reflects his own admiration for the cultural value of the city of Istanbul itself. Pamuk’s daydreaming of would-be chance encounters with these artists introduces us to his city and the many shared spaces that the author might have experienced with the writers.

In his own words, Pamuk acknowledges that “these four heroes…opened my eyes to the soul of the city in which I live.”(111) Beautifully, by reliving his love for the artistic merit of these four writers, we are kindly introduced to their city, their way of remembering its past, and our own chance encounters with their city through their artistic eyes. It is worth noting that Pamuk recognizes that these writers were once recharged by the East-West – past and present – tensions that Istanbul hosted. Their “pure poetry” was embedded in originality of an art the looked forward without apologizing for the past; their melancholic approach celebrated the Istanbul they knew and hoped to always keep alive, somehow.

Pamuk skillfully gives us a snapshot of modern realities of Istanbul and the presence of opposites, side-by-side in the city: rich minority versus sea of working majority; old buildings of Ottoman once-grandeur versus waves of ethnic immigration to a “new city.” It’s the patchwork of Istanbul forming at our very own eyes. And what more “to chance” than encountering that on the grounds of Taksim Square? That would be life-for-the-sake-of-life art!

Thus, the remodeling of boxed concepts in modern Istanbul by its own diverse population (with varied motives and aspirations) is the city’s new Istanbullus. In “Breaking Memory, Spoiling Memorization: The Taksim Protests in Istanbul,” its population stamped the city with its own signature: diversity on old grounds. The old and the new in the city concentrated in one historical site of traditional cultural value for the sake of democracy and the reshaping of  what means to be Istanbullus.

Protesters have shown that artificially propelling the city into the future without taking to heart what is meaningful to the people living in it is not what is valued by this new, multicultural self of the city identity. As the article reinforces, they cried against Erdogan’s “…conservative and repressive moralist approach to governing society…its authoritarianism…its crack down on intellectuals by restricting freedom of expression, its neoliberal development plans, its destruction of nature…its takeover of Istanbul’s old quarters and neighborhoods for neoliberal gentrification projects, its long-term repression of Kurds…and of non-Muslim minorities….” Istanbul’s many faces wanted to be seen, heard, and write their own history. Maybe these are the readers Pamuk’s writers had sought, after all. Not a city of architectural grandiosity, solely, but a city of shared spaces for shared values, aspirations, and meaning.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Menely really articulates the many deeper meanings behind the production, consumption, and circulation of olive oil. This particular reading does focus on a specific group of olive oil producers but I thought it was interesting to read how this product has become the major stressor of a culture. For instance, the Palestinian market has accepted the fact that, in order to profit, they must endure the many struggles of exporting and transporting their olive oil to different regions. Blood, sweat, and tears never seemed to cross my mind when thinking of the production of olive oil. Menely shed light on this cultures struggles to produce a high end product.

Extra Virgin authenticity

Admittedly, when I think of the Mediterranean and food, I think of olives and olive oil and tomatoes (Italian food). This article made me giggle a little bit when I read the part of  Olive oil being associated with Advil and Motrin. It’s funny, because my Aunt works for the company who makes Advil and she loves the Mediterranean region and travels there constantly. I’m curious if she has any idea of the products her company makes and her favorite region are oddly tied together.

Aside from that, it saddens me to think that something that is such a staple to a region of the world has become so commercialized that the history of the product has become lost. I know that it comes from the Mediterranean, but I didn’t know that a raw or and olive in it’s “natural” state is bitter and inedible. I don’t eat olives, so I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference but it’s still small things like that, that get lost in the growth of a product.


Extra Virgin

The history of olive oil was definitely very interesting. I think the argument on the naturalness of olive oil stood out the most to me. Olives are inedible in their pure form, so some sort of measures are already taken to make olives edible. Does that make them unnatural? Not necessarily, but it does make for an interesting point in the debate of how natural the fat is in olive oil. No doubt it’s better for one than most fats, but it is interesting to see both sides of the idea. I’ve also always been confused as to what extra-virgin meant when it came to olive oil, so to see that explained quite well was nice. Now I know what extra-virgin means.

Extra Virgin

The olive tree is also the cornerstone of the domestic house-hold (oikos) and a sign of civilization, the inhabited world of arable land and agriculture. It is interesting that the olive tree is considered the cornerstone of the domestic household and a sign of civilization because of the health benefits of olive oil within the Mediterranean diet. It is labeled that the Mediterranean diet is superior for health and aesthetically pleasing and would not be labeled this without olive oil as a staple within the diet. Olive oil, because of the Mediterranean diet has been accepted as a staple in combating heart disease as well with the growth of heart disease among Americans in the 1970’s. This was interesting to me because currently America has seen a new trend in the “paleo” nutrition that would equate to the use of olive oil much more exclusively in everyday life and everyday meals.

Extra Virgin

Reading about the cultural history of olive oil was really interesting. I know that I normally don’t think about products having any mythic or cultural past and I think it’s a nice perspective to look at. As someone who throughly enjoys the biological side of things, I was really interested in the technoscientific discourses that argue the health aspect to olive oil. I had no idea that there was an actual study on the postwar standard of living and that the massive amount of intake olive oil correlated with the low heart disease rates of the Greeks due to the “good” fat, which can be found in avocados as well! The whole intrinsic qualities guaranteeing the “rightness” of these scientific claims was something that I didn’t really agree with but since it was presented after the study, I can live with it! I guess I have too. Another interesting point was the tension between artisans and the companies that mass produce olive oil. I definitely think this is something that you could find in almost any region but focusing specifically on this product allows the reader to look at Mediterranean as unit in itself since olive oil is a connecting factor. Overall, it was a really nice article for being solely on olive oil!

Extra Virgin

It was a nice and interesting read. Virgin olive oil was said to have come from the goddess Athena but now it is considered to be more from science. Olive oil is put into many things people use daily. I never realized that aside from food it is used in makeup as well. It seems to be true when this item is referred to as “liquid gold.” Also it is interesting that people in Europe that use olive oil for everything do not conceive the same illnesses as often as what Americans were. It helps prevent heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes. This proves that maybe Americans should use more olive oil in our foods to substitute all the artificial things that are affecting us so negatively.

From the sounds of it olive oil in its first form seem pure and good for the body. When it comes to extra virgin olive oil cooks and chiefs find it to be the best thing to cook with. But why add the extra virgin to the name? To me it seems to be done just to take away from the stereotype of women having to be virgins, like Athena, and making it a substance so fine that it is above virginity. Pureness is one thing but extra virgin olive oil surpasses all expectations and limits. But of course knowing the American way, they will make it to where olive oil is a bad fat to have because we can never leave things alone. Always making it the next best thing that is not necessarily the best.

Olive Oil

This article draws attention to the ways in which the value and cultural importance of food are constructed and maintained. To me it was ironic how much unrelated meaning was assigned to what is considered a “natural” product like olive oil. The idea of being a “natural food” indicates some sort of a priori  authenticity but in the case of olive oil, much of the “natural” meaning was culturally constructed, drawing from both recent trends and from more historical/ancient ideas. The question of naturalness depends on what the consumer’s definition of natural is, do they see the naturalness in terms of historical/cultural production of the product, in terms of it’s biological production, or in a combination of the two?

Whether or not these cultural phenomena actually makes one kind of olive oil more or less “natural” is certainly up for debate but it is interesting how different factors authenticate it. In many ways this is not so different from the marketing schemes used by producers of what we think of a completely unnatural foods such as fast foods or processed foods. In any case, the food that we choose to eat usually has some sort of cultural acceptance surrounding it and in modern times, a lot of that acceptance comes from branding, advertising, and marketing no matter what the product is.

It is not inconceivable that a significant part of the craze surrounding “naturalness” and “authenticity” is a result of the advertising push, both as a counter to the prevalence of highly processed foods and as a method of proving authenticity. The use of the phrase “traditional method” was interesting because is only referred to the way in which the olives were crushed (by a stone wheel). While this “traditional method” probably had little to no effect on the quality of the olive oil, the use of the phrase brings to mind a certain, marketable (probably highly Mediterranean) cultural image. By creating an image of cultural authenticity, regardless as to if it is “authentic” or not, producers make their product seem more natural and thus more marketable.