Ottomentality: neoliberal governance of culture and neo-Ottoman management of diversity
Since the 2000s Turkey has witnessed a growing array of cultural productions and sites ranging from television series to history museums featuring the magnificence of the Ottoman legacy. Contemporary cultural analyses often interpret this phenomenon as cultural expressions of the Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi; AKP) Islamist ideology and foreign policy known as neo-Ottomanism. Nonetheless, this interpretation tends to overlook the complexity and underestimate its socio-political implications. This study draws attention to the analytical limitations of neo-Ottomanism and develops an alternative concept—Ottomentality—in order to more adequately assess Turkey’s renewed Ottoman motto. By incorporating the Foucauldian perspective of governmentality, the study proposes to look beyond the “ideology” and “foreign policy” interpretations and reconceptualize neo-Ottomanism not only as a distinct form of governmentality, but also in collaborative terms with neoliberal governmentality. Ottomentality is deployed here to underscore the discursive governing practices that are generated by the convergence of neoliberalism and neo-Ottomanism as a means of cultural intervention. By critically engaging with the areas of history museums, television, and cinema, this study aims to examine the AKP’s neoliberal approach to culture and neo-Ottoman management of diversity. The study contends that the convergence of these two rationalities has significantly transformed the state’s approach to culture as a way of governing the social, produced a particular knowledge of Ottoman-Islamic multiculturalism, and constituted a citizen-subject who is increasingly subjected to exclusion and discipline for expressing critical views of this knowledge.