The New Cultural Climate in Turkey: Living in a Shop Window

Publication Year



Translated by Victoria Rowe Holbrook, Ph.D. 1985

The New Cultural Climate in Turkey is a beautifully written collection of essays by a leading Turkish intellectual. It presents a compelling analysis of cultural politics in Turkey, arguing that the dominant clichéd dualities of East/West and secular/sacred mask a reality of silence, repression and return.

Gürbilek's keen analysis of radical changes following the 1980 coup demonstrates how two apparently contrary cultural strategies—one repressive and censoring, forcing abnegation, the other liberal and provocative, inviting assimilation—were roused to join in silent solidarity. Offering a sophisticated review of the culture, politics and literature in Turkey, this is the sole book in English that analyses the cultural aspects of modern Turkey in order to explore its place within global politics—a groundbreaking work.


1. Cultural Climate, Personal History

2. Living in a Shop Window

3. To be Named

4. The Return of the Repressed

5. Me Too

6. Death of the Stranger

7. Child of Agony

8. Bad Boy Turk

9. Bad Boy Turk II

10. The Original Turkish Spirit


“Reading Nurdan Gürbilek’s prose is like listening to a person you have just met and don’t want to let go. She dazzles you with her account of cultural expression during the Turkish military dictatorship of the 1980’s. How is it, she asks, that so much culture emerged in a time of political repression? In her answer she takes you to new shopping malls, talks to you about political dissent, describes new musical formations, stops in a café, and explains how literature portrays a belated condition. Gürbilek’s vision is at once ethnographic and cosmopolitan, as she is able to reflect on the small metaphors of life while also referring to world literature and European philosophy. This is a Turkey alive and unadorned -- beyond the clichés of East and West, the veil and cappuccino, Islam and Pamuk ... Victoria Holbrook’s translation sparkles like the morning rays falling on the Bosphorus.”—Gregory Jusdanis, The Ohio State University

“In The New Cultural Climate in Turkey the literary and cultural critic Nurdan Gürbilek depicts an all-round picture of Turkey in the post-1980 era characterized by the latest military coup and its aftermath. From the exhibited corpse of a murdered pornography artist to the tamed and agonized picture of an anonymous child that decorates the walls of the Anatolian coffee houses, Gürbilek presents a gallery of portraits that reveal the cultural codes of a society that experienced - and is still experiencing - the impacts of a series of upheavals and radical transformations ... She situates the Turkish novel within its own history and tradition at the same time as she explores its thematic correspondences and formal engagements with the western novel. Her skill in combining minute, analytic textual explication with erudite theoretical framing is sure to captivate a wide audience of scholar and student alike who are interested in Turkish literature.”—Jale Parla, İstanbul Bilgi University

Zed Books
London and New York
Cloth: 9781848134867; paper: 9781848134874; ebook: 9781780320809