The Uneasy Vernacular: Choreographing Multiculturalism and Dancing Difference Away in Globalised Turkey

  • Öykü Potuoğlu-Cook George Mason University
Keywords: embodied vernacular culture, dance ethnography, multiculturalism, Islamism, secularism, political-economic analysis, ethnicity, NGOs, EU, Istanbul/Turkey


In this article, I reflect on the changing valence of urban vernacular movement in contemporary Turkey as it lingers at the edge of Europe without formal membership. Drawing equally on dance theatre productions and politicised quotidian performances, I examine the frictive relationship between Islamic and secular culture entrepreneurs as well as the precarious, embodied articulations of difference in globalised Istanbul: the current European Capital of Culture. I investigate the overlapping aesthetic and socio-political ramifications of intimate globalisation to expose the limits of Turkish multiculturalism on stage and on the street. My first larger objective is to trace ethnographically the use of mutual ethnic, sexual, and classed bodily distinctions in choreographing pluralism and producing new hierarchies under transnational sanctions and neoliberal investments. Second, I use this materialist dance ethnography to generate fresh interdisciplinary dialogue on entangled questions of social justice and artistic innovation.