Thursday, July 7, 2011

Assignment 1 -- Negotiations of Identity: My Istanbul Experiences

1) The first image is one that “shows” the camera’s power to make the different, the shock, the other an object available for your “experience.” This is an image that implicates you as an “outsider” in your use of technology to handle the new and the excess of sensations that comes with being in a new world such as Istanbul. Boredom and sleepiness are other ways that we deal with this excess of sensation or “shock.”

I chose this picture because this was our first meal in Istanbul. It looked and smelled very different from the foods that I am used to eating, and I was hesitant to eat it at first for that reason. However, I thought it was a beautiful arrangement of different foods put together, which encouraged me to eat this, so I hoped to express that in this picture.


2) The second image is one that conveys for you a difference or otherness in the buildt environment or social spaces of Istanbul that in some way has surprised or shocked you. This image does not try to control the shock but instead to focus on it, to try to linger on this shock.

This picture is of one of the neighborhoods from the tour that Orhan gave us. I felt so different walking through this neighborhood, and quite out of place because I felt very privileged compared to the people we saw as we walked by, as well as guilty that I had all of these things on my shoulder, this “privileged American”, walking down their streets only to express even more to them the things that they don't have. With this picture, I wanted to capture and never forget those memories.

The third image should be one that you think helps you convey the “limit” or the violene of the camera. That is, this image is one that is important to you because it somehow comments on the technology that you use to capture this image.

This picture is of the ceiling in the Blue Mosque...or at least, part of it. I remember how frustrated I was taking this picture because, as much as I wanted to capture everything with one snapshot, there was no way I could. No picture could do the beauty of this building justice because it is so extravagant and huge. I could only take pictures of it in sections at a time.

4) The fourth image engages the politics of photography in the non-western world. Historically the camera has been seen as offering Westerners the truth of the Orient. The camera is used less as an apparatus of art than it has been used as an apparatus of scientific truth when picturing the non-west. To counter this it is important to think of images or shots that for you either undo the west/non-west binary in some way or that pushes the image away from being scientific document and toward being more of an artistic composition. As an artistic composition the image is valuable because it demands interpretation. Can you come up with an image in the city that for you is so complex that it demands interpretation?

At least for me, I found this picture to be complex and artistic. If I were a person looking at this picture for the first time, some of the questions I would ask would be: What exactly are these bulbs? What are they used for? Why are there so many? Who inspired the designs? Where was this picture taken?

5) The fifth picture should convey your struggle to capture deeply personal memory through an image. Is there an image that you have or could take that is meaningful to you because it evokes personal memory? How do you take that picture without loosing its quality as a memory?

I think it's apparent what memory this picture evokes: the gold and purple colored bridge, which was at one of the universities in Istanbul, reminded me of the University of Washington back home in Seattle. I'm sure that the bridge has its own name, but the association I made of it was the “Husky Bridge”. Although there are no bridges on the UW campus, the beautiful setting on this campus in Istanbul, in addition to the combination of colors on the bridge, reminded me of how I love spending warm, sunny days walking around the UW campus.

6) The sixth and seventh images are related to our three lectures by Jen, Orhan, and Didem. Can you take two pictures in the city/of the city that you think conveys or aids in conveying what you have taken away from these first three lectures. What in the lectures was most rich and meaningful to you. What was the take away for you? Power and inequality? Cities and their complex relation to nations? Modernity and its demand for homogeneous citizens? States and the way they hide their violence through what a citizen sees and remembers (ie, gentrification).

The first picture, inside the Hagia Sophia, and the second picture, a gentrified area of Istanbul, are the two pictures I wanted to use to convey what I've taken away from the lectures in Istanbul. In the Hagia Sophia, there are traces of its former existence as a Roman Catholic cathedral before being turned into a mosque. In the second picture, this used to be a former neighborhood, where business hopefuls wanted to “beautify” the area with the idea of “modernizing” the place and making lots of profit.
In both the Hagia Sophia picture and the gentrified neighborhood picture, and the shared concept of there being a former existence in both of these pictures, I found myself being reminded of how Istanbul has always been a city of constant change, and to this very day continues to be an ever-changing city. Not only does this include its composition from area to area within the city, but it also includes how the identity of Istanbul as a whole has changed over time.
What I have found to be slightly confusing, however, was my observation that Istanbul seems to be a very homogeneous city. It was very obvious, mainly because of our physical appearance, that our study abroad group was a group of foreigners. While this made sense after the lectures made by Jen and Orhan about Turkey wanting to make its country homogeneous and how that ideology expelled many communities from their homes, it was still very hard for me to grasp that almost a complete group of people can be gone after one wave of history. But, when I think about how it is not of an individual truth but rather formed by a collective idea and surroundings, I can see how identity exists based on how the powers that be choose to form and change this concept of identity, and how a collective group of people will identify themselves.
At first, I still struggled a great deal trying to understand what exactly does “negotiation of identity” meant, mainly because I still had a very challenging time with what multiple influences on the idea of identity were actually existing. Going to Istanbul completely changed my idea of what it means to just be and exist. Istanbul completely changed my idea of what it means to belong, and what exactly is something that you belong to. From Didem's lecture, I started to get a grasp on the very important role of geography in history. Just as individuals are shaped by the people and surroundings that influence them, how places are formed, what they mean, and the influence and power that they have are all shaped by the communities, cities, and countries that neighbor them. It was from the discussion that we had at the Kurdish migrant organization that I began to hold a grasp of how the influence of an institution to create and shape a certain identity could also lead to the suppression and exclusion of identities that are not fitting with the institution's ideal concept.
It seems as though I barely began to understand how the concepts of identity and belonging, along with the ideas of migration and place, have influenced where Istanbul exists today and where it is heading when the study abroad group left for Berlin. The issues that were raised when learning about these concepts definitely made me think about the immigration issues that we face back home in the United States. A sense of identity, a sense of belonging, and knowing you have a place to call home are true phenomenons. As the United States itself is a nation of immigration, seeing and hearing about the issues that Istanbul and Turkey as a whole face has opened my eyes to something that is also applicable back home: immigration, or at least the idea of it, brings up many fears of change. The unknown is frightening because we are uncertain as to where our existence will fit and how our lives and our cultures will change and what will be lost as a result. When our identities seem to be challenged, we get defensive and resistant against this change. I am realizing now that a big and important part of learning how to embrace change in identity and culture requires open-minded education and dialogue, and I hope to spread my newfound knowledge to others in my various communities back home in the United States.

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