Archive for the ‘THE BIG IDEA COMPETITION’ Category


The cultural history of the piggy bank (domuz kumbara) in Turkey
It is frequently claimed that objects or things are global (for example, Big Macs, Hollywood movies, rap music) but what does this really mean, and what is involved in the process of ‘going global’? If something is global, does it mean that it has lost any attachment to its origins (a particular place, for example), and therefore can no longer be ‘local’? Moreover, what cultural processes are at work when something ‘goes global’? Do the global trajectories of things help us understand our own relation to processes of globalization. Do we all see the same things in the same way, or are different interpretations of things still possible?
We would like to explore these questions by looking at one particular ‘global thing’ – the piggy bank – and examine its cultural history and meaning in a particular context, that of Turkey.
For further information on the ‘Global things’ project visit the webpage.
Word limit: maximum 1500 words

Deadline: 15 December 2013

Please send your essay to ChangingTurkey@gmail.com (together with your CV and contact info)

The prize is:



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by Alan Scott

Alan Scott is a New Zealand citizen who has lived in Turkey for many years. He is currently teaching in the English Prep School at Okan University in Istanbul. Alan publishes a blog, Turkey File , where he writes about Turkish history, culture and current affairs. Alan is the winner of the first Big Idea Competition with his essay ‘A Melange of Cultures’.

His essay on historical monuments from New Zealand and Turkey (below), runner-up in the Second Big Idea Competition,  has been selected for publication by Changing Turkey in a Changing World.


The question calls for a European border monument, so I should briefly explain why I am focussing on four – two of which are far from Europe. In doing so, I have in mind questions of my own: If borders are lines drawn to keep people apart, is their real existence on a map, or in the human mind? Do values connect on the ground, or in the mind? Does the uniting of people take place in a physical location – or in the mind?



My home these days is in Istanbul, but I come from a country about as far from Turkey as it is possible to get. My  hometown, Auckland, New Zealand, is 17,000 kilometres away. Carry on a little further, you’ll cross the International Dateline into yesterday, and be on your way back. When my father’s ancestors left the old country, Scotland, in June, 1842, they endured a four-month sea voyage. When I board my Airbus 340-600 on 13 January, I’ll be looking at a trip of 31 hours and 20 minutes. I will check out with Turkish Police at Atatürk Airport, and get a going-over from the NZ border people when I arrive in Auckland. In between, I will fly over half the world, mostly at an altitude of around 10,000 metres.

It is self-evident that borders these days are not as straightforward as they used to be. Turkey has an almost 10,000 kilometre-long border on land and sea – but where do customs officers do most of their business? Airports, I guess. New Zealand has 15,000 kilometres of coastline, and no border with another country – yet we are one of the world’s most peripatetic people, constantly crossing international borders, especially to destinations in Europe, where most of us have our roots.

Not many New Zealanders have roots in Turkey. However, a surprisingly large number visit the country each year – many of them on a pilgrimage that has become an annual event towards the end of April. They flock to the town of Çanakkale, attend a solemn dawn parade with politicians and neighbours from Australia, and visit the cemeteries and killing-fields of that long-ago exercise in military futility, the Gallipoli invasion.

The first time I visited that desolate landscape was with a group from the Turkish school where I had begun working as a teacher of English. The date was 18 March, a few weeks before the latter-day Anzacs would arrive, but the day on which Turks commemorate their victory. The highlight for me was ascending to the ridge overlooking the peninsula, known to Turks as Conk Bayırı, and in Anzac legend as Chunuk Bair. This narrow strip of land was the key to the campaign, and the objective of a twelve-day battle in August 1915. Reports tell us that it was the only Allied success of the entire Gallipoli invasion – sad when you consider that a small force of New Zealanders fought their way up and held the ridge for a mere 48 hours, suffering horrendous losses, before being driven off by the Ottoman counter-attack.

The positive thing, from a New Zealand point-of-view is that there, on that ridge of ghosts, stand two memorials. The larger one commemorates the hero of the Ottoman defence, Colonel Mustafa Kemal, who went on to become the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. Alongside is a second shrine, to the memory of the young men from New Zealand who fought and died on that lonely ridge, so far from home and family. It is this latter monument on which I will focus, and to which we will return.

Seventeen thousand kilometres away, on a hillside near Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, a site chosen for its remarkable similarity to the terrain of Gallipoli, stands another monument, this one to the memory of that same Mustafa Kemal (later Atatürk). There is no line on any map linking or separating the two countries. The distance between them is as great as possible between two places on planet Earth – yet these two monuments so far apart, represent an interconnectedness, a sharing of history and values, that transcend mere physical distance.

Young men from New Zealand and Australia, loyal citizens of the British Empire, spent a month travelling by ship to Europe, to fight for King and Country in the Great War.  Thousands of them never returned, but left their remains on foreign fields. One might expect that Turks, at least, would harbour some ill-feeling against people who travelled so far with aggressive intent – but it is not so. Inscribed on that monument near Wellington are the magnanimous words of the Turkish leader:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives . . . You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours . . . You, the mothers, who sent your sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”


It was in recognition of this great-heartedness, that the government of New Zealand raised a memorial to Atatürk on the ridge above Tarakena Bay[1], and in acknowledgment of the Turkish government’s allowing the building of the NZ shrine at Chunuk Bair – commemorating the 850 Kiwi ‘Johnnies’ who ‘lie in the bosom’ of the Turkish Republic. These two monuments link the hearts and minds of two nations whose birth pangs can be traced to those bloody months on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The words of a Turkish poet, Necmettin Halil Onan, are inscribed in huge letters on a hillside overlooking the Dardanelle Straits, and the lines could be as true for New Zealand as for Turkey:

Traveler, pause. An era ended                                                                               

Where you heedless tread. Listen

And hear, in the silence of this

Mound, a nation’s beating heart.[2]


But there is more to this connection. A few years ago I was wandering along Raglan Beach, on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, when I chanced upon three carved wooden sculptures, unmistakably Maori: a traditional tattooed male figure, a bird and a dolphin, all silver-grey and weathered by the winds and salt spray sweeping in from two thousand kilometres of one of the world’s wildest seas.

Aotearoa, as the indigenous Maori people call New Zealand, is a lonely, isolated land, bordered on all sides by vast oceans, and, it goes without saying, no contiguous neighbours. Anthropologists tell us that these islands were the last habitable landmass to be populated by humans, who made their landing less than a thousand years ago. Those first arrivals, the Maori, maintained their splendid isolation for perhaps five centuries before Europeans began to arrive from the late 1700s. For the next hundred years, immigrants from Europe faced a journey of four months on a sailing ship. And there we are to this day, descendants of those intrepid pioneers, inhabiting a cluster of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, far from our roots in the British Isles, speaking a language whose closest relations are half a world away. The carved figures are not of European origin, yet they speak eloquently of our isolation, and search for identity.

I have seen a lot of Turkey, but there is a line I have yet to travel – east from the capital Ankara through the Anatolian cities of Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum, to Kars and the Armenian border. Out there, 1174 kilometres, and a universe away from the European metropolis of Istanbul, lies the town of Manzikert (Malazgirt in Turkish) in the province of Muş. As every Turkish school child will tell you, this was the site of a battle in 1071 CE, when the forces of the Seljuk Turkish Sultan Alparslan defeated the army of the Byzantine Emperor, Romanus Diogenes. His victory opened the way for Turks to sweep into Anatolia, where they remain today – in defiance of the feelings of many Western Europeans, who wish they would return to whence they came.

My fourth monument is there, in that remote East Anatolian town – erected in 1989 to commemorate a long ago battle. It may be debatable whether this edifice is in Europe, but the Turks indisputably are, as out of place with their language and traditions as we white New Zealanders are down there in the South Pacific. It’s a strange world we live in, and sources of conflict are easy to find. The borders we draw, on the ground and in our minds, are often lines of defence. Crossing them to make connections requires imagination and breadth of vision. My four monuments can be seen as unconnected and irrelevant – or as pointers to a new world where we seek the values we share, rather than the differences that divide us.

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Changing Turkey in a Changing World is proud to announce the winner of the 2nd Big Idea Competition on Border Monuments and Connectivity:

Dr. Hakkı Taş teaches at the Department of Political Science at Altın Koza University, Ankara. He was a visiting asistant in research at Yale University in 2007 and received his PhD in Political Science from Bilkent University in 2011. His main research interests are civil-military relations, hegemony and resistance, and modern Turkish politics. He contributed to the Encyclopedia of Religion and Violence and also got published in PS: Political Science and Politics, Muslim Public Affairs Journal, and Political Sphere.


The Peace Monument on the Swedish-Norwegian Border

Between Norway and Sweden, there is a mythical state. In 1959, newspapers reported the formation of a new country, Morokulien, a combination of the Norwegian and Swedish words for fun, moro and kul respectively (Gatrell, 2012). Also known as “the Republic of Peace,” it was set up on 6-hectare demilitarized zone on the Norwegian-Swedish frontier. It has its own citizens, issues stamps and broadcasts its own TV and radio programmes. What inspired and gave birth to Morokulien is a peace monument around which this new country was also established. The monument was erected much earlier in 1914 on the Norwegian-Swedish border to commemorate 100 year long peace between both countries.

The Historical Background

When the Napoleonic marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was elected in 1810 as the Swedish successor and adopted as Crown Prince Carl Johan, he reoriented Sweden’s foreign policy. Known as “Policy of 1812,” Carl Johan was determined to acquire Norway with the support of Napoleon’s enemies (Barton, 2003: 13). Eventually, he succeeded it. The Treaty of Kiel, signed on January 14, 1814, that ended the hostilities between the parties of the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, compelled Denmark to cede all of Norway to the king of Sweden. However, Norway declared its independence. The Norwegians convened a constitutional assembly at Eidsvoll on May 17, 1814, adopted their own constitution and elected Prince Christian Frederik as king. This led to a brief war between Sweden and Norway.  The Convention of Moss, signed after the war on August 14, 1814, formed the basis for the personal union between Sweden and Norway (Scobbie, 2006: 231).

In 1905, the union was unilaterally dissolved by the Norwegian parliament. The union king, Oskar II responded to this situation with preparations for a war. However, there was little he could do to silence the Norwegian opposition. Moreover, the Swedish peace movement called SPAS (Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society) worked hard to avoid a military conflict and succeeded (SPAS, 1989). Finally on October 26, 1905 after negotiations in Karlstad, the peaceful dissolution of the union was formally recognized by Sweden. A demilitarized zone was created on the border. Morokulien lies now on this zone.

The Peace Monument

The Nordic Peace Congress, held in Stockholm in July 1910, decided to build a peace monument on the border at Eda between Sweden and Norway in order to celebrate hundred years of peace between both countries in 1914 (Lee and Forss, 2011: 28). They carefully chose a spot on the demilitarized zone to make the monument visible from the road as well as from the railway. The land was purchased by the SPAS and the Norwegian Peace Act (Eda Commun, 2012: 6). Then, the peace activists started to collect money. In contrast to the Norwegians, many Swedish people did not welcome this idea as the release of Norway was a kind of humiliation for them. Nevertheless, the Swedish peace activists managed to collect 17.000 crowns. Besides, both governments were asked to donate 2.000 crowns. While the Norwegian parliament approved the quest immediately, the Swedish government granted its contribution only after the inauguration of the monument, with 194 votes against 156 (SPAS, 1989). There was still ill-feeling between the two countries.

Many activists worked for free or for a small payment during the construction of the monument. The Norwegian state railway transported the granite blocks without charge. The Swedish Architect Lars Johan Lehming, designed the monument without any compensation and was later fired from his work at the defense bureau for his involvement in the project (SPAS, 1989).

The 18 meter high monument, made of white granite from Idefjorden, was finally inaugurated on August 16, 1914. Some 12,000 people gathered to the celebration along with the Norwegian parliamentary president J. Løvland and the Swedish Bishop von Scheele (Eda Commun, 2012: 6). The peace monument consists of two pillars, one on the Swedish ground and the other Norwegian ground, but on a mutual foundation. Two men stand on top of those pillars and reach each other a friendly hand. On the back of the monument is inscribed: “Henceforth shall war between Scandinavian brothers be impossible” (Morokulien, 2005).

Since its inauguration, the peace monument has become a gathering place for Scandinavians. During the World War II, the monument square was respected by the German soldiers. It was the only place a Norwegian and a Swede could be married (Lee and Forss, 2011: 29). Even today, Scandinavian marriages take place here.

From a Monument Square to the Republic of Peace

The year 1959 was declared the International Refugee Year by the United Nations. The same year, a joint Swedish/Norwegian boradcasting corporation borrowed the monument grounds in order to set up a radio show Över alla gränser (Beyond all Boundaries).  Both Prime Ministers were present at the opening broadcast. After a contest, the name for the area was coined by Lennart Hyland, a popular radio and TV figure, and it has stuck: Morokulia, a combination of the Norwegian and Swedish words for fun. Since then, this site is known as Morokulien (Morokulien, 2005).

The radio show raised some money to buy a house for refugees to stay within this area. In 1964, a refugee family from Hungary moved in, a gas station was built for job and income. A café, an amphitheater, and a post office were also later built (Fredsplatsens Vänner, 2007). Morokulien is still one of the very few places on earth where one can legally post letters with stamps from two countries, or even with a combination of Norwegian and Swedish stamps. Similarwise, the amateur radio station in Morokulien, is the only one with two call signals, Swedish and Norwegian. Lastly, Morokulien hosts the project Grensetjänsten (Border Service) to help people in both countries to find employment. The project involving in professional and coordinated advisory activities aims to deal with the lack of information about the possibilities on both sides (REGBOUR, 2006: 34).

Morokulien has citizens, but no inhabitants. It has 100,000 visitors each year from all around the world. The visitors may symbolically become a citizen of Morokulien and receive a passport at the Information Center. The idea initiated by SPAS is to gather people from all over the world around the concept of peace (Morokulien, 2005). The SPAS has proclaimed Morokulien a “Republic of Peace.”

Morokulien is the world’s first example of cross-border peace park. Now many countries follow the same lines in order to strengthen bilateral peace on their borders (e.g. for the Balkan Peace Park project, see Kennard, 2008). More importantly, both the Peace Monument and Morokulien came into existence by civilian efforts to establish peace between two neighboring countries. Now, almost a century later than its inauguration, the Peace Monument still demonstrates how powerful peace activists can be even without any state support.


Barton, Arnold. 2003. Sweden and Visions of Norway – Politics and Culture, 1814-1905. Chicago: Southern Illionis University Press.

Eda Commun. 2012. Eda Tourist Guide 2012. Boras: Kommun Media.

Fredsplatsens Vänner. 2007. The Peace Monument. http://www.fredsmonumentet.com/english. html, accessed on January 17, 2012.

Gatrell, Peter Gatrell, 2011 (January, 12). World Refugee Year, 1959-60 and the history of population displacement. Slavic Research Centre, Hokkaido University.

Kennard, Ann. 2008. “The Balkans Peace Park as a Vehicle for Cultural Survival,” Cultural Production and Negotiation of Borders – The 2008 European Conference of the Association of the Borderland Studies, University of Tromsø

Lee, Sangsoo and Forss, Alec. 2011. Dispute Resolution and Cross-border Cooperation in Northeast Asia: Reflections on the Nordic Experience. Stockholm-Nacka: Institute for Security and Development Policy.

Morokulien. 2005 (September 27). http://www.morokulien.de, accessed on January 16, 2012.

REGBOUR (Euregios and New Neighbourhood). 2006. Putting Neighborhood into Practice. Joensuu: Pohjois-Karjalan maakuntaliitto.

Scobbie, Irene. 2006. Historical Dictionary of Sweden, 2. Edition. Maryland: The Scarecrow Press.

SPAS (Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society). 1989. The Peace Monument: A Milestone in History. Stockholm: SPAS.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author who retains the copyright.


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Border monuments are often designed to celebrate mobility and interconnectedness. According to the architect Cecil Balmond, “A border offers identity but one that is enriched by neighbours, so that it’s not so much a line of separation as a local set of interconnected values.”

We are seeking short essays (max. 1,500 words) on any European border monument.

Well-known examples of border monuments include: the Statue of Humanity in Kars,‘The Star of Caledonia’ monument (yet to be built) on the Scottish/English border at Gretna,The Welcome (‘Cradle of History’) Monument on Gibraltar, the Schengen monument to a “borderless Europe”, the ‘Bridge of Europe’ over the Rhine River between Strasbourg (France) & Kehl (Germany), and the museumization of the Berlin Wall (e.g. the Checkpoint Charlie museum).

Entries are invited on these or any other border monuments located in Europe. We are particularly interested in learning why those monuments were built in the first place and how they contribute to the connection between two separate communities.

Closing date: 1 January 2012

Entries to be sent to: ChangingTurkey@gmail.com

The winner will receive “Cosmopolitan Spaces: Europe, Globalization, Theory

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Border monuments are often designed to celebrate mobility and interconnectedness. According to the architect Cecil Balmond, “A border offers identity but one that is enriched by neighbours, so that it’s not so much a line of separation as a local set of interconnected values.”

We are seeking short essays (max. 1,500 words) on any European border monument.

Well-known examples of border monuments include: the Statue of Humanity in Kars,‘The Star of Caledonia’ monument (yet to be built) on the Scottish/English border at Gretna,The Welcome (‘Cradle of History’) Monument on Gibraltar, the Schengen monument to a “borderless Europe”, the ‘Bridge of Europe’ over the Rhine River between Strasbourg (France) & Kehl (Germany), and the museumization of the Berlin Wall (e.g. the Checkpoint Charlie museum).

Entries are invited on these or any other border monuments located in Europe. We are particularly interested in learning why those monuments were built in the first place and how they contribute to the connection between two separate communities.

Closing date: 1 January 2012

Entries to be sent to: ChangingTurkey@gmail.com

The winner will receive “Cosmopolitan Spaces: Europe, Globalization, Theory

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Changing Turkey in a Changing World is proud to announce the winner of the 1st Big Idea Competition:

A Melange of Cultures

by Alan Scott

Mr. Alan Scott is a teacher of mature years living in Istanbul and currently teaching English at Okan University (Istanbul-Turkey). He was born in New Zealand and worked as a high school teacher of English there. He first came to Turkey in 1995, and, apart from two years back in NZ, he has lived in Istanbul since then. He has a strong attachment to this country now through his Turkish wife, Dilek, as well as a great interest in Turkish history and culture. He has three grown up children living in Australia.You can see Mr. Scott’s blog where he publishes his thoughts as a foreigner in Turkey at: http://turkeyfile.blogspot.com/

Each year Muslims prepare a delicacy known as ashure in remembrance of Noah and his people, who survived the flood of God’s anger. Search for the recipe of this ancient dessert. You will find many experts willing to share their knowledge – but little agreement, other than that it has a large variety of ingredients. For this reason, ashure has been used as a symbol of multi-culturalism. Yet, in the end, it is just a dessert – one item in the culinary wealth that is Turkish cuisine. How much more difficult to define the peoples currently in possession of this land lying at the meeting point of Asia and Europe!

Excavations at Çatal Höyük, near the Turkish city of Konya, have revealed a site dating from 7500 BCE, the oldest centre of civilisation on earth. The modern name, Konya, derives from ancient Iconium, which was a city in the time of the Hittite empire, around 1500 BCE. It was an important city in the kingdom of the Phrygians, in the 8th Century BCE, later falling to the Persians, and again to Alexander the Great, before being assimilated into the Roman Empire. The Book of Acts records that St Paul preached a sermon there around 50 CE. Its Christian history ended in the 11th century when Konya became the capital of the Seljuk Sultanate, and Muslims still visit the tomb of the Sufi mystic, Mevlana, in this iconic Turkish city.

Plunge a spade into the ground anywhere in Turkey, and you will find traces of similar antiquity. Preparations for Istanbul’s year as ‘European City of Culture, 2010’ have been slowed by the city’s archaeological riches. Work on the Metro line has unearthed thousand year-old harbours and ships from Istanbul’s days as capital of the Byzantine Empire. In the last thirty years, its population has swelled from three million to more than fifteen million. Shopping centres comparable to any in Europe exist in proximity to shantytowns of migrants from the Anatolian heartland, where methods of agriculture have changed little in two millennia.

The European stereotype of a Turk is the image evoked by names such as Genghis Khan – squat, swarthy, muscular Mongolian horsemen, thundering in hordes out of the Asian steppe, raping, pillaging and burning – locating themselves on the lower rungs of a rational person’s ladder of civilisation. Yet even the physical characteristics of a Turk are hard to classify. Almost every shade and combination of skin, eye and hair colour will be met, and a striking range of body shapes and sizes, from Naim Süleymanoglu, the pocket Hercules weightlifter who measured 1.47 m and won three Olympic gold medals from 1988 to 1996, to Sultan Kösem, who, at 2.47 m, was recently recognised by the Guinness people as the world’s tallest living man.

One thing can be said with certainty: attempting to glibly define Turkey and its people, and to locate them on some arbitrary continuum of civilisation is risky. Your stereotypes may bounce back to confound you.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author/s who retain the copyright.

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Enter the Changing Turkey ‘Big Idea’ Competition!

All you need to do is answer the question below in maximum 500 words.

Question: Where do you locate Turkish society in the civilizational context? Is it eastern? Islamic? Western? Post-western? sui generis? Please explain why.

Please send your ‘big idea’ to: changingturkey@gmail.com

Deadline: 1st of December, 2009.

The prize is here.


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