for me the image of the mediterranean first came into being by way of a tv commercial. we all grew up in it, but it was different, it was never simply an image then; it was something we enjoyed, like one enjoys breathing. this particular commercial  featured all the charming aspects of the mediterranean fantasy; a house exemplifying now long dead (at least in asia minor) art of stone masonry, olive trees (the monarch of all trees as praised by the bible) which are now ruthlessly laid as sacrifices for nothing else than tourism, earthenware dishes, wooden spoons, red geraniums and in the midst of all a true product of modern/late capitalist transnationalism: the middle class family (nested in the mediterranean countryside), the mother (dispenser of all things sensuous), a lonesome child, his demonstrated happiness at the sight of his father arriving from work, a car..

since then, in the past fifteen years,  this image has been used and reused, rendering mediterranean into a selling brand. we encounter it everywhere: on the packaging of a sea salt washed in “clearer blue” meditteranean water, or the olive oil and its reiterated merits as the miracle of nature, or a certain dish called hummus as the embodiment of all things mediterrenean. in those fifteen years however, something else must have happened because while i was rummaging through internet looking for the above mentioned image of mediterranean, i found a recent commercial for the same product but this time articulated strictly in nationalist terms. here it is:

but what could have happened in those fifteen years that made it necessary to narrow down the transnational mediterranean image to crescents and stars? moreover, it used to be the state that bestowed those images, it was the army, the government institutions, the schools, the police. how does unilever get the right to speak of crescents and stars, to be a decoy of the army generals (one of whom just recently applauded a bunch of highshool kids for painting a turkish flag with their blood), and to restore authenticity to turkish (or any) culture? is this the sacredness of profit? deleuze asked aptly whether we can grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms of struggles, “capable of threatening the joys of marketing?”  how does one fight the shallow image of the deep mediterranean sea, the frightening mercenary nationalisms, and the epidemics of emotions they unleash?

perhaps the ottoman empire and later on the turkish republic were always vulnerable to the advances of nationalism, which changed its focus from religion, to ethnicity and back to religion, at will, depending on the circumstances. however, it seems to me now, the impossiblity to achieve a turkish identity, the growing reaction to european union (which by now exceeded the limits of self-disneyfication to be taken seriously anyway), and the desire to differentiate itself from other muslim nations (but nevertheless hoping to find solace in their company), make people living in the confines of the republic of turkey much more prone to injury than ever before: this injury will be inflicted upon themselves in their endless pursuit of reterritorializing what has been lost, or justify what has never been achieved in the first place. the image of the quick-footed crescent and star in this commercial scares me to no end.


[...] “..Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks! I must teach you. You must read them in the original. THALATTA! THALATTA! She is our great sweet mother. Come and look..“ [...]

acousticspace » Blog Archive » ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον added these pithy words on Feb 13 08 at 8:56 am

living in turkey I agree with your comment; I want to add that what now happens in turkey is the return of the empire: it is not just nationalism- the sign now signifies another set of references. last 10 years was a major transformation: as the doctrine of republicanism now vapours, neo-ottomanism is in advance. what this crescent and star refers to is the re-claiming of empire. yet this empire is a totally post-modern one: there is now no claim to turkish-ness but rather what comes forth is a historical understanding of mission. now most of the books are talking of how wide ranging ethnicities contributed to the ottoman empire. reclaiming of empire comes with self-addressed responsibilities: what is now signified with “turk” is re-defined. it is no more an ethnic concern but what is mentioned here is the “turk” of 17th century. there is need for more studies on the subject-matter.

this year is the 100th anniversary of the modernist revolution in the sublimecourt of the ottoman empire (by CUP: ittihat ve terakki). as the Nationalist state in recess, what we see is that the return of the sultan abdulhamit the 2nd, the one who was taken down with a coup: and his project to modernize muslims is now turned into a postmodern absolutism.

fark yaralari added these pithy words on Feb 13 08 at 1:15 pm

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a wine-dark sea, indeed