The Affective and Political Messages of a Construction: Erdoğan’s Presidential Complex

Turkey's new Presidential Palace at night

Although the concept of affect is related to the intensity of living bodies in relation, It also compromises the relationship between things and living bodies. (Massumi, 2002) Infrastructures can be one the examples of non-human forms of being what to get in touch with human body though the affect they produce. This is what the infrastructures make visible and perceptible for people.

According to the some of affect theorists, there are interrelationship and inter-subjectivity of forces. (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010) Since the administrative buildings are one of the political infrastructures that can product the inter-subjective forces through their visibilities, locations and the symbolic values, these structures are affecting the body inside as much as the outside world so they can change attitudes of human beyond the physical changes of environment.

In order to analyze the relationship between the politics of infrastructure and personal experience, I would like to mention about the presidential house of Turkish Republic. History is full of example that shows how the power/powerlessness produced by an infrastructure. Topkapı Palace was one of them, built by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, and Dolmabahçe Palace, built by Sultan Abdülmecit in the 19th century.   While former symbolizes the golden era of the Ottoman history, the latter is the product of demolition years of the empire.

While these historical infrastructures give us insight about the political circumstances of their periods, Turkey had to face with a similar situation in governance of president of the republic, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He has used the concept of ‘new Turkey’ since he became a presidential candidate, 2014. Because he defines himself as successor of Ottoman Empire, the infrastructural product of the the ‘new era’ would be an impressive building. He ordered to built a presidential palace that is the world’s largest one with 1.100 rooms, four times bigger than Versailles.

Just like his other political actions, the project of building a new presidential complex has lots of symbolic meaning which produce affect on the citizens. I would like to analyse one of the characteristics of the palace; its symbolic name.

As creating affective experience is possible with naming the structures of the public buildings or infrastructures just like naming the hospitals and bridges as 20 July which evoke the feeling about the coup on Cyprus in July 1974. (Navaro-Yashin, 2003) Since Northern Cyprus relate its root with Republic of Turkey after the intervention in 1974, Northern Cyprus is called as ‘infantland’ of Turkey. (Navaro-Yashin, 2003) Very similar strategy can be recognized for today’s Turkey. Inasmuch as Justice and Development Party (AKP) claim to have their origins in Ottoman Empire, they called this administrative building Külliye which means a traditional and religious ‘complex’ surrounded around a mosque. In order to strengthen the feeling of being descendent of Ottoman Empire, they also use lyrics of the national anthem with the sounds of Ottoman military band, Mehterclick for the trailer!

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Even the official name of this structure is ‘Presidental Complex’, it is known as Ak-saray (While Palace) in public domain. Ak means white in Turkish, but this name gives reference to political party of Erdoğan which also has the same name ‘AK Party’. Although Turkish constitution required political neutrality to the president of republic, Erdoğan kept his very close ties with AKP. Consequently all these symbolic actions create different affects on people; while suppurtors of AKP felt prideful; opponents felt alienated and marginalized.

References

Gregg, M., & Seigworth, G. J. (2010). The affect theory reader. Duke University Press.

Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation. Duke University Press.

Navaro-Yashin, Yael. 2003. “‘Life is dead here’: Sensing the political in ‘no man’s land'”. Anthropological Theory. 3 (1): 107-125.

http://www.diken.com.tr/9-soruda-ak-saray-2/

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-erdogan-white-palace-presidential-residence.html##ixzz3GQJqZp00

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