The Republic of Love
Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music
At the heart of The Republic of Love are the voices of three musicians—queer nightclub star Zeki Müren, arabesk originator Orhan Gencebay, and pop diva Sezen Aksu—who collectively have dominated mass media in Turkey since the early 1950s. Their fame and ubiquity have made them national icons—but, Martin Stokes here contends, they do not represent the official version of Turkish identity propagated by anthems or flags; instead they evoke a much more intimate and ambivalent conception of Turkishness.
Using these three singers as a lens, Stokes examines Turkey’s repressive politics and civil violence as well as its uncommonly vibrant public life in which music, art, literature, sports, and journalism have flourished. However, Stokes’s primary concern is how Müren, Gencebay, and Aksu’s music and careers can be understood in light of theories of cultural intimacy. In particular, he considers their contributions to the development of a Turkish concept of love, analyzing the ways these singers explore the private matters of intimacy, affection, and sentiment on the public stage.
Note on Orthography, Notational Conventions, and Names
List of Illustrations
2 Zeki Müren: Sun of Art, Ideal Citizen
3 The Affectionate Modernism of Orhan Gencebay
4 Why Cry? Sezen Aksu’s Diva Citizenship
5 Three Versions of “Beloved Istanbul”
“The Republic of Love is a wonderful book. Strikingly original, theoretically sophisticated, and brimming with ethnographic and analytical detail, it is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand Turkish politics and culture of the second half of the twentieth century through its complex soundscape of crooning voices and sentimental songs. Stokes is a master at unpacking the ‘cultural intimacy’ of aspects of modern nationhood and personal identity that in the West are often thought of as polar opposites: civic virtue and lugubrious melancholy, democracy and intense emotionality, modernism and nostalgia. I love it.”
"A brilliant, compelling, and erudite study of key figures in Turkish popular music who have often been regarded with some embarrassment in official circles. Stokes ably demonstrates the critical importance of affect and sentimentality in their music, and how in turn these play a key role in contests over civility, urbanity, national identity, and globalization. The Republic of Love will not only help readers comprehend the centrality of Turkish popular music in creating affectionate views of public life, but should also inspire many readers to love the music itself."
Society for Ethnomusicology: Alan Merriam Award