In-Between Modernities and Postmodernities: Theorizing Turkish Consumptionscape


Ozlem Sandikci and Guliz Ger (2002) ,"In-Between Modernities and Postmodernities: Theorizing Turkish Consumptionscape", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 465-470.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 465-470


Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University

Guliz Ger, Bilkent University

Globalization is commonly interpreted as leading to commercial, cultural and technological standardization across the world. Often implicit in these arguments is the view that globalization is related to modernization, and, as in CocaColanization or McDonaldization, the origin of cultural homogenization is the West. In the marketing literature, many studies regard advances in communication technologies and increasing flows of goods, people and information as paving the way to adoption of pro-Western consumption values and practices in many developing countries (e.g., Costa and Bamossy 1995; Schultz, Belk and Ger 1994). However, in recent years, it has also been argued that consumptionscapes of developing countries indicate neither a uni-directional adoption of Western values nor a mere replica of Western consumption styles (Ger and Belk 1996; Miller 1995; Sandikci and Ger 2001). What appears to be a simple emulation and a senseless pastiche when looking from the outside often turns out to be a highly sensible and creative synthesis when looking from the inside.

In this exploratory study we extend the discussion on non-Western consumption cultures and aim to generate a debate around the issues of modernity, postmodernity and globalization. Although discussions about postmodernism within the marketing discipline have begun a decade ago, the implications of modernism/postmodernism for consumer cultures of developing countries were generally overlooked. Consumer researchers examined the effects of postmodernism on consumption and discussed in detail the construction of the consumer, the role of symbolic processes, fragmentation of everyday practices and the significance of hyperreal cultural environment in detail (Brown 1993; Firat and Venkatesh 1995). However, most of these discussions center around the experiences observed in late-capitalist societies, implicitly assuming an epochal shift from modernity to postmodernity along with the progress of capitalism, and do not offer many insights on the nature of consumptionscape of non-Western countries, which are at early (and different) stages of capitalism. On the other hand, studies that explore development of consumer culture in non-Western contexts (Dholakia 1981, 1984; Joy and Wallendorf 1996; Mentzer and Samli 1981; Wood and Vitell 1986) tend to relate advancement of consumption to "modernization" and assume that economic progress transform traditional social structures and values, and foster the emergence of a Western-style consumer culture. Much of this literature overlooks the fact thatthere are multiple routes to modernization (Nederveen Pieterse 1995, 2000) and that there are multiple cultures of capitalism (Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars 1993).

Using Turkish consumptionscape as a case study, we explore two questions in this study. First, how can we interrogate existing conceptualizations of consumption practices in non-Western contexts? Second, are these practices representative of multiple modernities or postmodern plurality? We use Turkey as a case study, because Turkey sits problematically between the West and the East, and represents the symbolic and material tensions between a state-induced "modernization" attempt and various local interpretations of "modernity". Using data collected from diverse sources such as interviews, participant observations, archival sources and popular media we discuss and explain four consumption practices B spectacularist, nationalist, faithful, and historical B that entail different readings of local/global, east/west, modern/traditional, and different ways of identity construction and negotiation. What ties these diverse practices is the search for a "modern" identity; however, how "modern" is interpreted differs tremendously. Although dynamics and terms of each of these consumption practices differ, they all point at the multiplicity and problematize any reading of modernity as a predictable and fixed experience. On the other hand, hybridity, creolization and fusion that characterize these practices resonate postmodern plurality in a country currently struggling to be modern. Turkish case indicates the complex and multi-dimensional relationship between modernity, postmodernity and consumption, and suggests that new theoretical perspectives are needed to better understand the nature of consumption in a globalizing world.


Socio-Historical Background

With the establishment of the republic in 1923, Turkey set her direction, unconditionally to the West. Because the West was perceived as the very principle of civilization and the modern world, westernization was regarded not only as necessary but inevitable. Turkish modernization established itself upon the principles of rationalism, progress and science. The Ottoman past was rejected for its backwardness, traditionalism and religiosity. For the Kemalist elite of the young republic, "it seemed as if the principles of modernity could only be accommodated only on the basis of a massive prohibition and interdiction of the historical and traditional culture" (Robins 1996, p.68).

The ambitious social reengineering program of the Republic started to show first signs of disappointment in the 1950s as the homogeneous "modern" Turkish identity imposed by the state began to be more and more challenged. After the introduction of the multi-party politics in 1946, a right wing government took control, marking the beginning of fundamental changes in regard to the place of Islam and traditions in Turkey. Religious courses were brought back into education, government support for the Hajj was restored, and shrines were reopened. Large-scale migration of 1960s and 1970s brought the geographically and socially peripheral Islamic revivalism into center, into the big cties. In the 1980s religious orders became more active, and Islamic companies and educational institutions, backed by substantial funding from abroad, grew rapidly. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed both the politicization and the commodification of Islam (Sandikci and Ger 2001).

Along with Islam, other social and economic changes transformed the composition of the cultural life. Stimulated largely by American aid and foreign investment, Turkey embarked in a massive industrialization process in the late 1950s. An inevitable effect of this was migration from rural towns to big cities like Istanbul, where employment opportunities were flourishing. Starting in 1960s, but accelerating in 1970s and 1980s, the face of cities changed drastically. Those migrated settled in the periphery of the cities, creating not only shantytowns but also a popular culture and lifestyle of their own that mingled both their rural, local traditions and the values of the city. The emergent cultural formation combining Eastern, rural themes with Western styles, referred to as "arabesk" (see Stokes 1992), sustained an attack to the rational and purist "modern" culture of the republican ideology.

The face of urban life changed not only through migration but as a result of liberalization, privatization and globalization of the Turkish economy in the 1980s and 1990s. Shopping malls, five-star hotels, high-rise buildings, entertainment centers, foreign cuisine and fast-food restaurants cluttered the landscape of the big cities along with the shantytowns. With the entry of multinational companies, many products that were once foreign to Turks became commonplace. In addition to office buildings catering to service sector professionals, cafes, boutiques and entertainment centers in upgraded main avenues or new exclusive residential areas enabled a decontextualized global experience of luxurious consumption for those who could afford it. The economic boom of the period, however, was not only fueled by legitimate means. Informal economy in the form of money laundering and the drug trade accompanied by corruption resulted in accumulation of significant wealth among few, creating a social group extremely rich in terms of financial resources but lacking significantly in cultural capital. Conspicuous consumption became the main venue of symbolic expression for the newly rich.

The Republic’s goal of cultural homogenization and a uniform "modern" identity has been long overshadowed by the mid 1990s, creating instead an increasingly fragmented and vocal public sphere with different identity formations and claims to the modern competing for legitimacy and power. The struggle to differentiate and legitimize identity for each of different groups finds its symbolic expression in the domain of consumption. Next we discuss four consumption styles that are most visible and distinct from the conventional consumption ethos of the middle classes.

Spectacularist Consumption

The upscale urban consumers exhibit a highly fashion-conscious consumption. Increasingly prevalent beauty saloons and fitness clubs produce look-a-like eyebrows, haircuts, manicures, pedicures, make-ups, and slim bodies. Plastic surgery and liposuction produce fashionable lips, noses, faces, breasts, thighs, and hips. Even men get manicure, and sometimes dye their hair or beard. Trendy clothes match particular styles of bodily and facial appearance. To outsiders, the young upscale urbanites all look alike, with their exact same eyebrows, make up, hairdos, hairand nail colors, and clothes. Fifteen year olds believe that they have to have that one brand of jeans in a particular bell-bottom style; another bell-bottom cut or brand simply does not work and becomes a source of shame. Their parents spend exorbitant amounts in restaurants and clubs, not only on food and drink but also on buying the jackets of the waiters to burn them on the dance floor or buying packs of paper napkins to throw them in thousands up into the air. These napkins are sold in clubs and restaurants, on the spot, for $10-50 per single pack, and thrown up to the ceiling, almost as if telling the crowd how much fun they are having and that they can afford it. And of course, those who do not replicate the fun, bear the shame.

One of the trendiest, most expensive and elegant of such clubs, Laila, even made its way to the New York Times (July 21, 2001), in an article titled "Istanbul Journal: Great Divide Widens As Economy Worsens" which addresses the increasing polarization between the evermore poorer masses and the wealthy few. The following is how the New York Times journalist Frantz who lives in Istanbul describes one of the customers of Laila:

"A black Porsche Carrera swings to the curb and two doormen in tuxedos rush to open the doors for the driver, who is in wraparound designer sunglasses and his passenger, a young woman wearing a short red silk dress and improbably high heels" (2001, p. A4).

The wealthy few still dance the night away at Laila, regardless of the grim economic crisis or the protests in front of Laila and media debates about increasing income polarization following the New York Times article. This example manifests not only a particular pattern of consumption, but also the many facets of globalization.

The most noticeable among this group of people are the singers, fashion models, VJs, DJs, soccer players, and television anchor people, presenters, and other television and movie heroes and heroines. Termed "magazine" media, television shows, colorful weekly magazines and daily newspapers with large pictures exhibit the lifestyles of the celebrities. While the rich and the famous engage in a public display of their trendy and flamboyant consumption with pride, the mass media disseminate and spectacularize that life- and consumption-style by making it visible in every home, poor or rich. Many one to two hour "magazine" and "paparazzi" programs on television in which celebrities are interviewed or intercepted on the streets, restaurants, bars, clubs, resorts, or luxury yachts occupy airwaves during the prime time. One of such programs, for example, ATV +zel Hat (9-11pm Sunday, 5 August 2001), shows celebrities having fun in Bodrum [Bodrum is a seaside town currently popular for its limitless fun and exciting nightlife.] clubs and bars. The cameras zoom to their tattoos, bare bellies, low dTcolletage or exposed thighs and bottoms, with their skimpy and fashionable summer clothes, jewelry, and accessories. The commentator mentions the latest gossip about their love lives. In the second part of the program, celebrities are intercepted, interviewed and their outfits and appearance are rated on a scale of ten. For example, the interviewer gives a rating of one to a fashion model that he encounters at a beach, calling her outfit rnkns (hideous). She wears a white bikini and white sandals. She loses points because her bikini is outdated B now string bikinis are in fashion and hers is not, the color of her toe nail polish is pink B not the currently fashionable dark red or win, and her hairdo is not in line with the latest fashion. She angrily reacts to the commentator’s decision: "but this bikini is Versace!" A male television star and comedian, on the other hand, receives eight points for the fashionable colors of his pants and t-shirt, and especially for his expensive and unusual sporty shoes with a pleated bottom. A male pop singer also gets nine points, especially because of the fancy silver chain on his neck. Another fashion model gets the top score, a full ten points, with her asymmetrically designed strapless black dress with a triangular section leaving half of her waist naked, pointed high heeled shoes decorated with fake diamonds, and ankle bracelets.

Others consume the images of such spectacularist consumption. They watch these programs or buy magazines to learn about the rich and the famous and talk about the ways of life some lucky people lead. In such discussions, there is admiration, fascination, envy, and also a criticism of the artificiality, meaninglessness, indecency, and wastefulness of it all. In any case, such publicly displayed consumption parades as a spectacular model or antimodel, depending on the audience.

Nationalistic Consumption

A much more modest and less advertised type of consumption pertains to objects that symbolize nationalistic ideology or ethos. The most widespread version of nationalistic consumption, shared also by the secularist elites or middle classes pertains to objects, films, and books about or associated with Atatnrk (the founder of the republic), such as the popular Atatnrk-embossed silver and gold brooches and lapel pins. For some consumers, especially those who cannot afford foreign goods, there is a preference for domestic brands, justified with a nationalistic attitude and statements such as "we can produce electronics and other things just as well as foreign firms". Exhibits of Atatnrk photos and paintings draw the more artistically inclined among this group of consumers. There is a state version of this consumption: posters, framed photos, and statues of Atatnrk are prominent in public offices, schools and central city locations.

More extreme form of nationalistic consumption is aligned politically with the Nationalistic Movement Party. The popular objects include baseball caps, t-shirts, flags, stickers, posters, calendars, pins, key-chains, car decorations, bumper stickers, cell phone cases and accessories, and decorative items in brass, copper, silver, ceramic, wood, all adorned with symbols, pictures, and slogans associated with nationalism. One prominent visual is the three crescents with the legendary wolf, which, according to the myth, saved the Central Asian Turkish tribes and led them to fertile lands. These paraphernalia are sold in the same stalls and shops that sell similar objects for fans of soccer teams or markedly Islamic objects. Books on Central Asian (Turkic) legends and heroes or more recent nationalistic stories, CDs of nationalistic pop and rap music are other items that appeal to consumers seeking national pride or are politically nationalistic. Youngsters sporting (American) baseball caps, t-shirts and flags with the wolf and the crescent figures roam the streets during political events or when Turkish soccer teams win in international games. The more affluent among them drive their foreign-made cars with nationalistic bumper stickers and beam messages from their foreign-made cell phones in leather cases with wolf-and-crescent engravings.

The most interesting version of nationalistic consumption is that of Mehmettik objects, such a music CDs with songs about soldiers, greeting cards to be given to soldiers being drafted for the compulsory military duty, and posters with pictures of an imagined Mehmettik. All the soldiers in the army are called Mehmettik, referring euphemistically to a soldier bravely and selflessly serving his country. There are television programs about the lives and acts of bravery of the various soldiers. Here it must be noted that opinion polls consistently indicate that the public has far more confidence in the military than any other institution. In addition to the enormous confidence in the military, the importance of the image of Mehmettik is probably also related to the role of heroes in Turkish history. The heroic leader, who comes along and saves the people, is a prominent figure in many Turkic myths and legends. A figure of collective pride, the hero has bravery, strength, character, and determination. The legends are about the feats of the hero and this exemplary individual’s attributes B how the hero saves the loved one from the enemy after much searching, sacrifice, and fighting and regains freedom (of the community) otherwise out of reach. Such stories still provide major reading material and the hero an ideal and a hope for the masses. Today, contemporary folk stories, films, and cartoons about various mythical or historical heroes abound. Mehmettik becomes the legendary hero among the folk in the rural areas (Mardin 1993), and the objects symbolizing and glorifying Mehmettik find eager consumers.

These various forms of consumption express a longing for a sense of worth, being proud of a national identity. Nationalism and nationalistic consumption emerge in response to a prevailing feeling of inferiority in relation to the hailed "West," a general devaluation of a past that failed to create a Westernized, modern country. Whether in the form of Atatnrk pins, evil eyes, modernized folk dances, Mehmettik posters and cards, or (American) baseball caps adorned with politically nationalistic symbols, such objects and experiences fashion novel local identities. "Local" is defined by drawing from many different and reconstructed "locals" and "olds," varying in time and space B secular republican, Anatolian, military, or ancient Central Asian.

Faithful Consumption

While an almost mythical "Turkishness" is one source to build identity upon, another is Islam. Despite the republican ideology’s attempt to secularize Turkey, secularization largely remained problematic at the cultural level. Especially since the 1980s Islam has a prominent role not only in the political arena but in the socio-cultural and economic domains. Liberalization and privatization of economy during the 1980s did not only change the lifestyle of urban seculars but created an Islamic bourgeoisie. Supported by the conservative governments and backed with the foreign capital coming from Turkish workers living in Europe and other Muslim countries, Islamic businesses grew rapidly. These businesses offered an alternative market for those who were religious. As wealth accumulated among particular sections of the religious population, and Islamic bourgeoisie, conservative in values but avant-garde in consumption practices, emerged.

A faithful consumption style became increasingly visible in almost all the sectors of the economy. Islamic media, similar to secular media’s dissemination of spectacularist consumption values, played an important role in communicating the religious ideology and lifestyle. Following the removal of state monooly in television and radio broadcasting, numerous television and radio channels backed by Islamic capital flourished. Initially, these stations operated as propaganda tools, spreading and teaching religious values and beliefs. However, over the years many of them have transformed into transmitters of popular Islamic culture, featuring entertainment-oriented programs, talk shows and films. Today, a rich and prolific Islamic media ranging from Islamic pop music to romance novels, women’s magazines, best sellers, and movies, compete with the secular media for audience, ratings and advertising money. Similar to the media, the need for an Islamic alternative to leisure became visible in the 1990s, and a couple of Islamic companies seized the opportunity for a lucrative business. The first summer resort for the religiously sensitive opened in 1996 in the Aegean coast. The hotel caters to religious people who felt uncomfortable in resorts to which secularists and tourists attend. Separate swimming pools and beaches, and separate entertainment and leisure activities for men and women offer a safe haven for religious upper classes who want to enjoy the summer yet remain true to the requirements of Islam.

The increasing consumption orientation among the religious is particularly vocal in the domain of fashion (for details see Sandikci and Ger 2001). As the Turkish textile industry developed rapidly in the 1980s, clothing businesses also grew among the Islamists. The rise of political Islam fostered a demand for headscarves, overcoats and other religiously appropriate clothing items. The initial uniformity in Islamic attire, which was characterized by the turban and the accompanying loose-fitting long overcoat, gradually transformed into heterogeneity in the dressing style, signaling the raising fashion consciousness especially among the upper, upper/middle class, urban, well-educated, young religious women. Today, fashion is one of the most visible areas that Islamist identities are played out. The Koran and the practices recommended by the prophet provide a definition for what is religiously acceptable dressing form. However, far from being monolithic, different readings coexist among the Islamists. Television and radio stations and publishing houses broadcast divergent views. The Islamist intellectuals, feminists, and theologians often engage in heated debates over religious covering. Furthermore, the meaning of religious dressing differs as a result of personal factors, political dynamics and market forces. Such diversity in the meaning enable women to simultaneously negotiate and justify different interpretations and practices. As the meaning of religious dressing pluralize and transform, the heterogeneity in dress not only become more prevalent but also more classificatory. The covering and dressing style operates not only as a signifier of being religious but as an indicator of the socio-cultural position of the wearer in relation to different subgroups of Islamists as well as secularists. The initially homogenous Islamic identity appears to be more and more fragmented, as various segments of the Islamists seek to construct distinct identities for themselves. The newly emergent urban, middle-class covered women do not simply differentiate themselves from the Westernized, secular Turkish women; they equally distance themselves from the traditional Islamic women who wear a headscarf out of a habit and from the gaudy and pretentious styles of the Islamic newly-rich. They reject both the image of covering as a sign of cultural backwardness and as a sign of extravagance and flaunting. At a broader level, the Islamic consumptionscape evinces the emergence of an Islamic elite seeking to ascertain itself as an alternative to the secular elite that has traditionally been dominant in the public sphere. Drawing both from Islam and local and global cultural resources, this elite crafts new consumption practices B modern, casual and trendy clothes, natural goods, traditional cuisine, Ottoman culture and artifacts, alternative vacation and traveling, books, intellectual debates, educational programs and documentaries on Islamic television channels B in an attempt to differentiate itself from the secularist moderns and other groups of Islamists.

Historical Consumption

The last decade also witnessed a revival of interest in objects and customs constructed to represent "our own traditions" that belong to several collectively imagined pasts. The most recent example is the phenomenally successful show, titled "Sultans of the Dance" (the title is indeed in English). The show is more or less a Turkish version of the Irish River Dance and consists of stylized folk dances and music from various regions of Turkey with allusions to ancient Anatolian myths. After watching the performance, held in stadiums and auditoriums that hold thousands, many comment that "it is great to see that we can accomplish such a professional, world class show." Another example is a "return" to traditional wedding ceremonies. Since the late 1990s young people want full-fledged, big conventional wedding ceremonies, unlike the simpler, less ceremonial weddings preferred by the youth of the 1970s. These ceremonies, which are perceived to be "traditional", are in fact highly urbanized and Westernized and nothing but "traditional" in a historic sense. Often such big ceremonies are complete with a "henna night" party proceeding the wedding night, in line with "our customs"(see _stuner, Ger and Holt 2000 for the new reframed henna night ritual).

Similar developments are abundant in the culinary culture. New "traditional" Turkish restaurants are popping up in major cities, cookbooks of traditional Turkish cuisine are hitting the bookstores, and Turkish coffee, after an absence from the restaurant and cafT menus, is making a comeback. Turkish coffee is popular once again, after its decline in the 1980s, when it yielded its traditional throne to first Nescafe and then cappuccino, espresso, and filter coffee. Evil eye beads, used in new forms and ways, inserted in silver or porcelain decorative objects, are prominent in many homes. Traditionally, evil eye beads were used in Turkey by simply attaching it on a piece of clothing with a safety pin or hanging a larger sized bead on the entrance wall of a home. Now, variously sized and shaped beads appear in many objects B vases, pots, plates, even in heart-shaped objects, possibly intended as Valentine’s Day gifts. Like the henna night ritual, even though the pagan evil eye is not particularly Turkish, it is imagined to be so. Both the henna night ritual and the evil eye are Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian practices. Yet, forms and objects construed to be traditionally Turkish are incorporated in consumption.

A very prominent form of historical consumption expresses itself in the nostalgic interest in the Ottoman culture, traditions and lifestyle. Jameson argues that in the nostalgia mode, the past is approached as a "stylistic connotation" where the aim is "not to 'represent’ historical content, but to convey 'pastness’ through imagery" (1991, p.19). The newly found interest in the Ottoman, "Ottomania," especially among the urbanites, which is expressed through various forms of consumption, indeed appears to be highly stylistic and image-driven. Although not exclusively, Ottoman-inspired historical consumption clusters around the semiotically charged domains of leisure activities, home decoration, art and fashion. Several luxurious hotels and resorts opened up in the last years make a direct reference to the Ottoman past. Ciragan Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul, which is located in the late Ottoman palace named Ciragan, offers five-star accommodation to its guests who are treated as Ottoman sultans. The guest can dine in one of the hotel’s restaurants named "Tugra" (imperial signature) that serves old Ottoman cuisine and then yield into its night club to enjoy a performance named "Sultan’s Night" featuring classical Ottoman music and belly dancing. The hotel publishes a monthly newsletter titled "Ferman" (imperial edict) that includes stories about Ottoman palace weddings, Ottoman palaces, Turkish coffee, etc. Another five-star hotel, Four Seasons, located at the heart of the old quarter of Istanbul next to the Topkapi Palace, seeks to maintain "the balance between Turkish traditions and cosmopolitan modernity" (Peppiatt 1997). According to the architect who transformed the building which has been built as an Ottoman prison house in 1917 to a luxurious hotel, the design and the decoration carefully evokes the Ottoman history and traditions. But the most conspicuous of all is a summer resort located at the Mediterranean coast. Alluding to the imperial palace of the Ottomans, the resort is named, in English, "Topkapi Palace." The resort is built as a replica of the palace with the Harem, kitchen, watching tower, St. Irene church, several fountains and small pavilions. Acknowledging the luxurious lifestyle of the empire as reflected in the Topkapi Palace, the brochure of the hotel informs us that the owners "had always dreamed of building, in the shores of Mediterranean, a copy of this palace which has been the subject of many mysterious tales and books about the life of the Sultans" and that the hotel "has been built in the spirit of exoticism with care to the smallest details" (World of Wonders, p.13).

Istanbul, once the capital city of the Ottoman Empire, now operates as the culinary capital of the Ottoman cuisine. Several restaurants offer traditional Ottoman meals to their patrons, with classical Ottoman music playing at the background. Not only meals but other old Ottoman rituals have become fashionable. Along with the increasing popularity of Turkish coffee, hookah smoking is now a trendy pastime activity among young urban professionals. In after works hours one can easily come across groups of young people sitting in posh hookah cafes, smoking, drinking and chatting. Many are also interested in decorating their homes in line with Ottoman design principles and artefacts. Those who can afford can acquire expensive Ottoman antiques from periodically held auctions. Objects ranging from paintings to miniatures, vases, various kitchen equipment, and furniture are sold to an eager audience in these auctions. Alternatively, one can resort to up-scale department stores, such as Vakko, or designers, to help them furnish their homes with fabrics and furniture inspired by the textiles, velvets, caftans, robes, cushions and sashes of the Sultans.

The nostalgic re-reading of "authentic" Ottoman materials and experiences enable softening the harsh political connotations as well as opening them up to the consumption of a broader audience. Despite the republican ambition to eradicate it, the once repressed cultural identity and past of the Ottomans, provide a new source to draw from. Interestingly enough, those who are interested in nostalgic consumption are not the grandchildren of the Ottoman aristocracy (Mert 1999); they are those that have been ingrained in the republican ideology but not satisfied with its homogeneous and depthless culture. Returning back to a past that is largely unknown and trying to rebuild it through a contemporary reading indicates the search for constructing an identity that is simultaneously traditional and modern.

Spectacularists, nationalists, Islamists, and historicists differentiate their identities from each other and from the mainstream middle classes by appropriating and consuming distinct objects and by creating particular "modern" consumption styles. Yet, these different categories of consumption styles are not mutually exclusive, there are many conjunctions: nationalist spectacularists, Islamic nationalists, and historical nationalists. On the one hand, while spectacularist consumption appars to have a modern/global style, it also has very local, very Turkish aspects. On the other hand, while the other three consumptionscapes appear to be "traditional," they have modern and global aspects and are also influenced by global dynamics. The emergence of the nationalistic, historical and Islamic consumptionscapes is not simply a resistance, an assertion of local distinctiveness against the center/West/global, perhaps epitomized and exaggerated by the spectacularist consumption. Because, the nationalists, Islamists, and historicists do not always abandon buying foreign goods or engaging in otherwise Westernized or modern consumption and ways of life (see Sandikci and Ger 2001 for an elaboration of that for Islamists). Furthermore, this emergence is not a return to traditions either, because the "traditional" practiced is a new, reformed form. What we see are multiple new articulations of "modern" identities, class distinctions, and subcultures in Turkey. The new urban spectacularist consumption, interested in the modern and the global, draws from the old as well as the new, the local as well as the global. Similarly, the new urban interest in the "old," "local," and the "authentic", either as in Islam, national/Turkish, or Ottoman, expresses how consumers are trying to negotiate modern identities by drawing from the old and the new, the local and the global.


Developmental approaches to modernization prevalent in the 1950s perceived modernity as a project which would take over in all modernizing societies as they go through various structural and institutional transformations such as establishment of parliamentary democracy and liberal economy, urbanization, mass communication and education. Implicit was the assumption that modernizing societies would converge in the homogenizing and hegemonic program of Western modernity, and local traditional, social, religious diversities and impediments would gradually be obliterated. However, the actual experiences of modernizing societies not only refuted these assumptions but problematized how modernity to be understood. The studies on modernizing societies, be it in Latin America, Asia or Middle East, increasingly evidence different interpretations and experiences of modernity and suggest "multiple" or "alternative" modernities in place of a totalizing and hegemonic view of modernity (Eickelman 2000; Garcia Canclini 1995; G÷le 2000; Kaviraj 2000; Ortiz 2000). The multiplicity observed in how modernity is experienced in non-Western contexts, according to Eisenstadt, strongly evidences that Westernization and modernity are not synonymous and "Western patterns to modernity are not the only 'authentic’ modernities, though they enjoy historical precedence and continue to be a basic reference point for others" (2000, p.3). The notion of multiple modernities counters a negative reading of culture, most vocally exemplified in Huntington’s "clash of civilizations" thesis in which Western civilization is confronted by traditional, fundamentalist, anti-modern and anti-Western civilizations B most notably the Islamic and Confucian B and, instead, puts emphasis on the productive dynamics of culture and the cultural constitution of modernity.

The pluralism and difference that characterize contemporary Turkish consumptionscape cannot be explained as either rejection of capitalism and globalization or resistance to modernity. In fact, each of the consumption styles discussed operates as microcosms in which different and conflicting claims to a modern identity is acted out and negotiated. Because identity is never singular but always relational and contextual, spectacularists, nationalists, Islamists and historicists cross-fertilize each other, leading to conjunctions of consumption that simultaneously entails inclusionary and exclusionary dynamics. As the public sphere expands and fragments as a result of various local and global forces, new hybrid forms of consumption emerge. But how can we explain such complex formations?

From one perspective the Turkish case provides support for the notion of multiple modernities, highlighting the fact that there are multiple routes to modernity. Such a view underlines the need for a performative reading of culture and its expression in the daily life B a reading that is historically and socially contextualized and sensitive to identity politics and power dynamics. Not only different interpretations of modernity coexist and compete historically but alternative readings of the modern emerge as a result of social and global dynamics. If this is the case, then do all cultures create their own modernities and can modernity be assembled to anything? Do different articulations of modernity suggest multiplicity or alternatives to modernity? One can also read the hybrid and fragmented Turkish consumptionscape as an evidence of postmodern plurality spreading to the world through globalization. If this is the case then don’t we as marketers need to go beyond celebratory accounts of postmodernism that conceptualize the consumer as a playful and highly crafted collage maker and start thinking about the power relations and identity dynamics that go beneath the multi-layered and multi-tensional meaning transformations and translations? Or, alternatively, the plurality we observe, be it modern or postmodern, might represent yet another instance of self-orientalization that non-Western societies go through under the disguise of global capitalism. One can argue that global capitalism always penetrates into the local and can gain legitimacy and acceptance only through hybridizing with the local (i.e. "glocalization"). We have no answers to these questions yet. But one thing is clear: with the spread of globalization old hierarchies are breaking down and many actors are competing for power and legitimacy against ever increasing internal and external Others. The Others are shifting, transforming and interpenetrating, so is the symbolism of consumption practices.


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Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University
Guliz Ger, Bilkent University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29 | 2002

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