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Journal of Arts, Culture, Philosophy, Religion, Language and Literature e-ISSN: 2457-0346, Volume-1, Issue-3, September-December, 2017; pp. 96-100 © Kavita Publishers and Distributors under Dr. Govind Chandra Mishra Educational Foundation http://www.gcmishraedu.com/Publications.html

‘Humanity at Large?’: The Contesting Tropes of Patriotism and Cosmopolitan in Orhan Pamuk’s The Silent House, The White Castle and Snow

Nasir Faried Butt

Department of English Central University Jammu, J&K-181143 E-mail: nasirbutt010@gmail.com

Abstract—In today’s world, when no nation or culture can remain isolated and pure, it is imperative to expand the concentric circles of belonging to the global level. Cosmopolitanism, as Nussbaum believes means to expand one’s allegiance from local, ethnic and expand it from national through international. This is the possible way to hormonise the world under one “global village.” The paper analyses three novels of Orhan Pamuk—The White Castle, Snow and The Silent House—through the perspective of “cosmopolitanism” as propagated by Martha C Nussbaum. The paper works on the proposition that Orhan Pamuk deals with the cultural tropes that zero down to the cosmopolitan worldview as a solution to the conflicts and chaos in the Turkish Post-Kemalist socio-political scenario. Pamuk’s characters are complex, representing different concentric circles of allegiance and ideologies, yet there are many characters in his novels who are embodiment of international belongingness as well as rootedness in one’s national identity. Turkish nationalism, as is evident from her modern history, is a matter of multiple ideologies, such as, Islamist nationalism, Left-wing nationalism, Extreme Right wing nationalism, Modernist nationalism and many other subnational identities and ideologies like Armenian and Kurdish ones. In this paper, it will be an andeavour to analyse the nationalism in Turkey and trace out the ‘international’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ to see how far Pamuk’s novels take such ideas that contest against one another; and how far does Pamuk make his characters to “imagine others” that would expand their imaginations to “humanity at large” as propounded by the thinkers right from the Stoic philosophy of the ancient Greeks through the enlightenment thinkers to the modern ones like Nussbaum and others.

Keywords: Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, Ambivalence, Turkish Culture, Orhan Pamuk.

Cosmopolitanism is a concept that originated during the ancient classical period in the Stoic philosophy i of Diogenes. The idea was renewed and reinvented by Martha C Nussbaum, in her essay “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” It was Diogenes the Cynic who initially proposed all men of wisdom belonged to a single moral community that he optimistically described as a city of the world ii . Nussbaum develops her concept of cosmopolitanism by taking a cue from Tagore’s character Nikhil in The Home and the World iii

“I am willing," he said, "to serve my country; but my worship I reserve for right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it." (qtd. in Nussbaum 3)

Nussbaum believes that the “emphasis on patriotic pride is both morally dangerous and subversive of the goal

patriotism sets out to serve—for example

justice and equality” (4). These goals, Nussbaum argues, “would be better served by an ideal that is in any case more

adequate to our situation in the contemporary world, namely the very old ideal of the cosmopolitan, the person whose allegiance is to the worldwide community of human beings” (4). Nussbaum criticizes the notion of “extreme nationalism” and believes that nationalism and “ethnocentric particularism

are not alien to one another, but akin

loyalty to more narrow spheres culminating in the excessive belonging to a small group, say family, and rejection of loyalty to the outer spheres, say, society or nation. Cosmopolitanism demands recognition of all the nations and peoples of the world as basically identical and equal. It demands a vision that transcends the local allegiances within national border and seeks allegiance to the humanity at large which makes the essence of international identity. Nussbaum’s idea of Cosmopolitanism is although criticized on the grounds that nationality and patriotism cannot be substituted by universalism and that it is difficult to imagine others. iv However Amartya Sen supports Nussbaum’s stand: “The importance of Nussbaum's focus on world citizenship lies in correcting a serious neglect—that of the interest of people who are not related to us through, say, kinship or community or nationality. The assertion that one's fundamental allegiance is to humanity at large brings every other person into the domain of concern, without eliminating anyone” (Sen 114). Robert Fine v believes that the emergence of cosmopolitan right is necessary and possible because of growing inter-societal relationship in the modern world. Fine impresses on the role of imagining other to attain mutual recognition of different cultures and societies as equals:

the ideals of

.” (5). This entails

‘Humanity at Large?’: The Contesting Tropes of Patriotism and Cosmopolitan in Orhan Pamuk’s The Silent House, The White Castle and Snow


Subjectively, cosmopolitanism is a form of consciousness that involves an understanding of the concept of cosmopolitanism and a capacity to deploy this concept in imaginative and reflective ways. The ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ aspects of cosmopolitanism belong closely together. The concept is nothing without its uses. It is the social form in which human beings struggle for mutual recognition as equals in the context of our multiple differences. (Fine xiii)

The ‘new cosmopolitanism’ is the revival of the ideals of “universal history, perpetual peace and cosmopolitan justice” developed by Kant during the Enlightenment period around the time of French Revolution (Naseem and Margison 40). vi Universal identity, reason, “imagining of other” and ever expanding “concentric circles” of alliance are the basic tenets of Cosmopolitanism. To be cosmopolitan is to be free from excessive national bondage of loyalty—however not completely negating the local and national alliance. It is to be free from the prejudices and skepticism to diversity and difference on international level.

Making the above key terms a matrix for analysis, the paper analyses the clash and interaction of different cultures broadly underlined as the East and the West focusing on Pamuk’s Pamuk’s novels, The Silemt House and Snow.

Pamuk crosses national boundaries and writes about the situations and characters that belong not to a particular nation but are taken from different cultures across the borders. Dealing with such international cultural encounters, Pamuk is well known as a cosmopolitan novelist. In his novel, Snow, Pamuk details the political and religious turmoil in Turkey during the initial years of Turkish Republic when the state sponsored Westernization project was in its full force in the country. The whole plot of this novel revolves around political rivalries, murders, plots and espionage. Snow details a journalistic account of a freelance poet and journalist named Ka who actually travels to snowclad town of Kars to track down and reunite with his beloved whom he could not have married. He poses as a journalist and develops contacts with all sorts of ideologically opposing organisations: extremist militant groups, spies, headscarf political women, Islamist preachers as well as the government officials and press agencies. He witnesses a political stage performance that triggers the coup and hence political killings and tortures. He is finally forced to leave the country, yet is murdered by political militants abroad for being suspected as a government agent. The plot of the novel revolves around confusion and unending turmoil, yet the solution as suggested by Pamuk is Cosmopolitanism as the only way of life that can possibly make the multifaceted chaos simmer down. The protagonist interacts and makes close contacts with all the political and social organisations as well as with extremist gangs; yet he does not betray any group nor is he loyal to any of them. In fact, he has regard to every organisation having due

consideration to them respectively. His cosmopolitan worldview allows him to feel affiliations and allegiance to all such organisation which he comes in contact with. He participates in the political discussions of the religious groups who are against Westernization; he comes close to the militant organization’s hero, named Blue whose head is wanted by the Government. On the other hand, he has contacts with those government representatives who are headlong diving into the waves of Westernisation; but Ka is also critical of the extreme nationalism which has caught the country to boil in a cauldron of rivalries and ploys.

In an interview with NPQ, Pamuk talks about the “antinational” and “cosmopolitan” perspective on the part of Europe and Islamic countries, which is the central idea of his novel Snow:

If people resent going down this path of Westernization, you should not bomb them or kill them. You should not feel contempt for them and call them stupid. You have to understand the resentment and the anger and engage it. You

have to have compassion for their fear and insecurity. If you

want to globalize the world, you have to do

immigrants from Muslim countries become large minorities throughout Europe, and if Turkey joins the European Union, Europe will have ‘two souls,’ like the ambivalent characters in Snow.” (Pamuk, “Two Souls” 11)

In Pamuk’s novels, the diverse cultural interaction highlights the cosmopolitanism as the only way out of the sectarian allegiances. He examines this ambiguous cross- national relation from a cosmopolitan perspective and tries to find a synthesis from this interaction. In the last chapter of The White Castle, Pamuk, through the character of the Sultan asks some rhetorical questions which have answers in the Cosmopolitan vision of the world where there is no difference among cultures and peoples around the world; and that the basic human essence is same everywhere:


must one be a sultan to understand that men, in the

four corners and seven climes of the world, all resembled one


were identical with one another that they could take each

other’s place? (Pamuk, White Castle 136).

Orhan Pamuk seeks a synthesis between the ‘national’ and ‘transnational’ and enlarges the “concentric circles” of allegiance from local to universal (Nussbaum 9) vii akin to what Robert Fine calls “new cosmopolitanism.” Robert Fine suggests that cosmopolitanism seeks to find a synthesis between national and transnational:

“The new cosmopolitanism is not so much about the displacement of the national by the transnational and thence the international but rather about the ‘fit’ between these levels of political community. It is about the necessity of enlarging our political imagination so as to be able to break from the

Was it not the best proof that men everywhere


Nasir Faried Butt

fetters of nationalism politically and methodologically. (Fine


Endeavoring to materialize the ‘fit between these levels of political community’ Pamuk challenges the “legacies of Turkism”, the ideology of Turkish nationalism that rejected the “Istanbul cosmopolitanism” and committed “the denigration of Ottoman Islamic past” (Goknar, “Secular” 305). In The Silent House, the grandfather Dr. Salahettin goes against the extreme nationalism and is therefore sent on exile to Paris by Ziya Pasha viii . Salahettin blurts out, “these Unionists are going off the deep end, they can’t stand freedom, how are they different from Abdulhamit?” ix (20). Salahettin’s grandchildren are more or less Cosmopolitan who have nothing to do with the Idealist nationalism which Hasan [their second cousin] is a member of. Nilgun is a left wing x activist; she believes in the ideas of class equality and hates the Idealist nationalists and calls Hasan a “crazy fascist”


Pamuk’s characters are diverse—ranging from the extreme fundamentalists, islamists, leftists, modernists to extreme Kemalists as evident from most of his novels as

mentioned above. Majority of his characters live in what Bhabha calls the “moment of scattering that in other times and other places, in the nations of others, becomes a time of


past in a ritual revival

In the midst of these gatherings, as Bhabha maintains, “there emerges a historical fact of single importance” (200). Pamuk’s characters live in the “third space” both within and without the national boundary. The retroactivity of the characters in Pamuk’s novels attests their historical belongingness to the nation and Turkish identity, xi . Fatima, in The Silent House, serves a link between the old traditional past and the conflicting modernized Turkey. She lives in an old mansion,

alone and abandoned. Her grandchildren visit her only in vacations and that also for a week a year. She visits the cemetery for prayers where her husband, Salahettin, her son Dogan and his wife lay at rest. She is a witness to the socio- cultural and political transformations that she has experienced through ninety years of her age. She recounts the impact of these social and cultural transformations on her husband:

Salahettin, her dead husband, was a doctor by profession who believed that “atheism and secularism will do the whole country good.” Fatima is deeply religious and does not want to live with the sin of her dead husband Salahettin who was a secularist and believed that God does not exist. After Salahettin died, Fatima wanted to get rid of all the sins he had collected in all his writings and papers which he had worked on to tell his countrymen that there exists no God. She burned all the papers and books which Salahettin had made a library of. For Salahettin, the ideas that he collected spending “years shifting through French books” were the pearls that he wrote “in a language my people can understand” (Pamuk, Silent House 218). Their grandchildren Metin, Faruk and Nilgun are more westernized and bear the legacy of their secular, atheist

of other worlds lived retroactively; gathering the

.” (Bhabha, Location of Culture 199).

grandfather. They represent the generations that are affected by the secularization and westernization process engineered by Mustafa Kemal in 1920’s and 1930’s. On the other hand, Hasan represents the unprivileged class of people who bears anger and disgust for the well-to-do westernized and secular groups. He dreams of washing his country of Communists and hopes that he will someday rise to power. He is caught in Turkish Islamist nationalism and dreams of renovation of Ottoman-like power. The novel portrays tensions and insecurities of modern Turkey caught between two worlds:

Europe and the Middle East.

However, Pamuk’s novels generally deal with the conflicts ranging from East-West tussle, through multivalent political rivalry in the region, yet his faith on cross-cultural and cross-ideological understanding by means of Cosmopolitan worldview is also suggestive in the texts. His The White Castle, is highly suggestive of such perspective and solution. The novel The White Castle details the cross-cultural relationship between a Venetian slave and his Turkish master hoja, who are the representatives of the Western and Ottoman cultures respectively. The postmodern plot and narration of the novel helps us to a great deal to understand what Pamuk tries to highlight. The two characters, however, are poles apart, yet they are lookalikes and moreover they exchange their identities by the end of the story. The Venetian takes hoja’s place as the master and the hoja in turn is “freed” by the Venetian after they exchange their places. This literal exchange between the two characters’ identity is highly metaphorical in that it refers to idea of cosmopolitan worldview wherein cultural exchange entails to uniformity of the world citizens beyond any cultural barrier.

Pamuk’s assertion of Turkishness, in spite of his transnational and cosmopolitan position, manifests itself in his characters. Noticing the ambivalence in Pamuk’s cosmopolitan position, Ian Almond notes:

Pamuk admits to two selves: A Western, secular, pro- Enlightenment rationalist, and an alternative self, implicitly Eastern, more closely linked with feelings and pleasure. Pamuk's attitude towards Islam in The Black Book will reflect this precarious dualism: on the one hand, the secular Orientalist and cynical nonbeliever will expose the myths of

various Islamic traditions

vanquishing of such traditions, and implicitly the larger narrative which sustained them, will leave a sadness and sense of regret in Pamuk's more sensitive, unrational (Eastern) self.


From the above discussion, it can be discerned that the dilemma of establishing “self” does not permit Pamuk’s characters to have affinity to “Others” in true sense. This challenges the cosmopolitan position and its tenets. Again, most of Pamuk’s characters are more or less the product of social engineering of Kemalist nationalism that gives rise to affinity towards the West and other “modernized” [my emphasis] cultures, and at the same time binds them to the

On the other hand, the

‘Humanity at Large?’: The Contesting Tropes of Patriotism and Cosmopolitan in Orhan Pamuk’s The Silent House, The White Castle and Snow


roots of nationalism and exclusive Turkishness. Pamuk, no doubt, looks at his nation “through the lens of other” in order to “see what in our practices is local and nonessential, what is more broadly shared,” but his concern and allegiance to his home is also strong (Nussbaum 11). This goes perfectly in line with Sissela Bok’s criticism of Nussbaum’s idea of “concentric circles” of allegiance that is the basic tenet if cosmopolitanism. Sissela argues that “for whatever perspectives we view the image of concentric circles, it conveys our ambivalence about the conflicting calls on our concern and sense of responsibility” (Bok 40). This conflicting call on sense of responsibility can be very well discerned in Orhan Pamuk. In his 2006 Nobel Prize lecture, Pamuk himself asserts his claim of Istanbul and his strong affiliation to the native city which he loves:

What I feel now is the opposite of what I felt as a child and a young man: for me the center of the world is Istanbul. This is not just because I have lived there all my life, but because, for the last thirty-three years I, have been narrating its streets, its bridges, its people, its dogs, its houses, its mosques, its fountains, its strange heroes, its shops, its famous characters, its dark spots, its days and its nights, making them part of me, embracing them all. A point arrived when this world I had made with my hands, this world that existed only in my head, was more real to me than the city in which I actually lived. (Pamuk, “My Father’s Suitcase” 11)

The above reading of the three novels boils down to the conclusion that amidst the confusion and conflicts that marred the Turkish identity and politics during the turn of the 21 st Century, Pamuk as a new age writer, enjoys the ambivalence in identity that is scattered and yet rooted; westernized yet quintessentially Turkish; modernized yet sticking to history and culture—in short, cosmopolitan; its concentric circles expanding and encircling local allegiance and culminating in international and inter-sectarian understanding and unity. He sees Istanbul from a third space and through the lens of the “other;” impresses upon distinct and shared values which he considers both local as well as universal; but his concern and allegiance to his own culture and nation is also strong. His novels delineate identities that are as complex as the conflicts in the region. The above novels depict the conflicts among the youth of the same generation but different ideologies that encompass East-West tussle, religious versus secular, traditional versus modern and so on. The cosmopolitan perspective which the author envisions and professes is not free from ambivalence, yet a possible and relatively effective mode to be a solution to all cultural and political questions.



Bhabha, Homi K. “Of Mimicry of Man: Ambivalence in


Colonial Discourse,” The Location of Culture, 95-121. Introduction. Location of Culture, 1-27.


The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. Print.

[4] Bok, Sissela. “From Part to Whole.” Cohen 38-44. Cohen, Joshua, ed. For Love of Country? Martha C Nussbaum. 2 nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002. Print.


Goknar, Erdag. “Orhan Pamuk and the Ottoman Theme.” World Literature Today 80. 6 (2006): 34-38. JSTOR. Web, 20 Nov.




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Martha C. “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.”


Cohen 3-20 Sen, Amartya. “Humanity and Citizenship.” Cohen 111-118.

[10] Pamuk, Orhan. Snow. Trans. Maureen Freely. 2002. New York:

Faber and Faber, 2004. Print.

[11] Interview. “Two Souls of Turkey,” New Perspectives Quarterly 24.3 (2007): 9-11. Wiley Online Library. Wiley Web. 7 Nov.

2014. < http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/>.

[12] “My Father’s Suitcase: Excerpts From the 2006 Nobel Prize Lecture,” World Literature Today, 81.3 (2007): 10-11. JSTOR. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

[13] Silent

















Yayinlari, 1983. [14] The White Castle. Trans. Victoria Holbrook. 1990. Manchester:

Carcanet Press; London: Faber and Faber, 2009. Print. Trans. of Beyaz Kale. Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 1979


i Stoic philosophy was a moral philosophy and propounded theories of mind. Stoicism has its roots in classical Greek and Roman times. The stoics believed that the states of mind and the acts were states of corporeal soul. Diogenes was one of the Stoic Cosmo polites, who believed in universal citizenship. See “Stoic Philosophy of Mind” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

ii See Nussbaum’s “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism.” pp.20. iii Nussbaum refers to Tagore’s Novel Home and the World in which Bimla complains that “her husband the cosmopolitan Hindu landlord Nikhil, is cool in his devotion to the cause” of the Swadeshi movement (Nussbaum 3 and that he has not been able wholeheartedly to accept the spirit of Bande Mataram.” Here Nussbaum impresses on the idea that extreme nationalism and blind patriotism limits one’s vision of universal humanity.

iv See Gertrude Himmlefarb in her essay Illusions of Cosmopolitanism argues that the basic tenets of Cosmopolitanism justice, reason and right are the western values and not accepted by many other nations. For Love of Country? (pp. 72-77). Elaine Scarry in her essay The Difficulty if imagining the other argues that the one cannot imagine others with their full weight; and that solving the problems of relation with foreign people should be tackled by international constitutional measures (ibid 99-110)

v See Fine, Robert. Preface. Cosmopolitanism vi For further detail of the rise of cosmopolitanism during Enlightenment, see Naseem and Margison 52


Nasir Faried Butt

vii Nussbaum maintains that we are surrounded by concentric circles of allegiance. These circles start from self and increase their diameters including family, then in order, neighbours and society, “fellow city dwellers and fellow countrymen” and so on. Outside these circles is a largest one, humanity as a whole.” viii Talat Pasha was the Grand Vizir of the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1918 who later on with other members of nationalist Committee for Union and Progress ruled de facto during the First World War.

ix Abdulhamit was the last Ottoman monarch who abdicated in 1918 on account of the political instability and the loss of majority of Ottoman provinces.

x Nilgun’s left wing affinity is based on universal/international equality. Marxism according to Fine was grounded on international issues of inequality. He argues that “Karl Marx wrote of capitalism as a world system deeply disintegrative of nation-states and saw worldwide capitalism as the base on which the project of human emancipation and a science of human association could be built up.” (Fine, Preface Cosmopolitanism, pp. ix)

xi Here by “Turkish identity” I mean not the Turkishness imported by Kemalists but the historical identity of Turkish people irrespective of social revolution or cultural transformation put forward by the process of westernization and modernization during and after the birth of Turkish republic.