Arabs in Turkish Political Cartoons, 1876-1950 – National Self and Non-National Other – Ilkim Büke Okyar / Syracus University Press

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By placing ethnicity at the center, the book focuses on the stereotyping of Arabs from the sixteenth to the mid-twentieth century within the nationalist discourse in late Ottoman and early republican Turkey. Author Ilkim Büke Okyar, published by Syracus University Press, Contemporary Issues in the Middle East series in April 2023.


The emergence of Turkish nationalism prior to World War I opened the way for various ethnic, religious, and cultural stereotypes to link the notion of the “Other” to the concept of national identity. The founding elite took up a massive project of social engineering that now required the amplification of Turkishness as an essential concept of the new nation-state. The construction of Others served as a backdrop to the articulation of Turkishness –and for Turkey in many ways, the Arab in his keffiyeh and traditional garb constituted the ultimate Other.

In this nuanced and richly detailed study, Ilkim Büke Okyar brings the everyday production of nationalist discourse into the mainstream political and historical narrative of modern Turkey. Okyar shifts the focus of inquiry from the abstract discourses of elite intellectuals to the visual rhetoric of popular culture, where Arabs as the non-national Others hold a front seat. Drawing upon previously neglected colloquial Turkish sources, Okyar challenges the notion that ethnoreligious stereotypes of Arabs are limited to the Western conception of the Other. She shows how the emergence of the printing press and the subsequent explosion of news media contributed to formulating the Arab as the binary opposite of the Turk. The book shows how the cartoon press became one of the most significant platforms in the construction, maintenance, and mobilization of Turkish nationalism through the perceived image of the Arab that was haunted forever by ethnic and religious origins.


« Okyar makes an important contribution to more standard explanations of othering under the influence of Orientalism and modern nationalism. . . This book will resonate with the renewed attention to race in the broader scholarship and interrogations of racism in non-western societies. »—Hasan Kayali, author of Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Second Constitutional Period of the Ottoman Empire, 1908-1918

« A magisterial work utilizing primary sources in the late Ottoman and early republican periods, Okyar has written the definitive book on the relationship between cartoons and national identity in Ottoman and Republican Turkey. »—Umut Uzer, author of An Intellectual History of Turkish Nationalism

« An original book using Turkish political cartoons in the Ottoman Turkish press, and a variety of other sources , to show how the Arabs were portrayed. »—Feroz Ahmad, author of The Making of Modern Turkey

Ilkim Büke Okyar is associate professor in political science and International Relations at Yeditepe University.

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