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Fault Lines: Turkey/East/West

Turkey is a strategically important nation, poised geographically and symbolically between Europe and Asia. But the tensions at its heart are becoming increasingly severe. A fierce struggle is taking place between modernity and tradition, secularism and Islamism, democracy and repression - often in unlikely and contradictory combinations. Most outsiders who examine these issues focus almost exclusively on Istanbul, the Kurdish issue, or religion, ignoring the far deeper complexities of a large country searching for a modern identity.



While living in Turkey for four and a half years, I was surprised at how quickly change was taking place: landscapes, towns, and cities reshaped, an extensive road network under construction, town centres 'beautified', and large apartment blocks springing up at a rapid rate around every town and city. Almost always, the architecture and infrastructure follow the same blueprint. Cities are becoming carbon copies of each other.

This modernisation is designed to handle the mass migration from village to city that is transforming Turkey. Istanbul, a city of a million people in 1960, is now one of the world's largest urban sprawls with an estimated population of over 15 million. The migration is raising a host of new issues.One of the most immediate concerns is the rapid disintegration of community in Turkish villages and towns. The low-cost housing projects replacing these communities are a model that has generally failed in Europe, though it is too early to tell how they will work in Turkey.

Turkey is often seen as the country that will bridge the gap between the West and the Middle East. At the moment Turkey is at a political crossroads that will define the very nature of the country. With a large, dynamic, and young population there is always hope that a truly democratic and liberal country will emerge, and that Turkey will be able to fulfil its role as a bridge between cultures and religions. My work seeks to address and question this process of modernisation, urbanisation and reshaping of national identity that is happening at breakneck speed against a rising tide of nationalism and religion. I have chosen to represent the changes by focusing on the quiet everyday life that most people in Turkey experience.


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