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Uncanny History

Temporal Topology in the Post-Ottoman World

Charles Stewart

Keywords: Alevis; Freud; genres of history; Greek Civil War; myth; topological history; the uncanny

Post-Ottoman temporal topologies—cases where the past, present, and future may be bent around one another rather than ordered linearly—may produce uncanny histories. The uncanny is activated, as Freud noted, when something secret comes to light, but also when the expectations of a given genre are exceeded. In these cases, the genre of historicism has been violated. Rather than contending that the post-Ottoman world is entirely different from Western Europe, the examples here alert one to the presence of uncanny histories in many other places since historicism has nowhere managed to eradicate its alternatives. Unsettled pasts of violence and displacement and presents beset by ongoing tensions (political, economic, religious/ethnic) do contribute, however, to a particular vitality and saliency of uncanny histories in the post-Ottoman sphere.

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