A talk by Kenan Sharpe (UC Santa Cruz), presented by the Centre for Turkish Literature in collaboration with the Department of American Culture

Wednesday, December 12th, 5-6.30pm


Fifty years since the watershed moment of 1968, scholars and pundits across the world are revisiting the legacy of the turbulent 1960s, with its student protests, labor struggles, countercultural movements, and transformations in everyday life. In this talk, Kenan Sharpe brings the U.S. and Turkish cases side by side, revealing unexpected points of connection and divergence that allow us to see the movements in both countries in a new light.

Within Turkey, most studies of the ’60s focus on the exploits of politicians and militants while sometimes overlooking incredibly rich developments in literature, cinema, or the arts that were intimately connected to social movements. Conversely, popular discourse on the U.S. ’60s tends to downplay the political threats posed by actors from below by overemphasizing ‘merely’ cultural or lifestyle issues. Arguing that is necessary to take seriously the linking of culture and politics in both contexts, this talk offers several brief case-studies: the ludic and experimental poetry of writers associated with İkinci Yeni, the radical Beat writings of Diane di Prima, the Anadolu Rock music of figures like Selda Bağcan, and the cultural production of the Black Arts Movement. Considering the fusion of aesthetics and politics in both the U.S. and Turkey–as mediated through unique social, historical, geopolitical trajectories–opens up fresh perspectives on 1968 and the ways the ’60s continue to reverberate through and across North America and the Eastern Mediterranean today.


Kenan Sharpe is a PhD candidate in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he works on 1960s social movements and cultural production in the U.S. and Turkey. His research interests include poetics; global modernism; Mediterranean studies; critical theory; and mid 20th-century literature, music, and cinema in Turkey, Greece, and the U.S. He has published in the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association and written articles for Verso, Jacobin, and Al-Monitor. He is a founder and co-editor of Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry.