In the past decade, Turkish television drama has enjoyed popular success in the Arab world, fueling wide-ranging controversies in the pan-Arab public sphere. Such popularity is at first sight puzzling. After all, Arabs lived under Ottoman rule for 400 years, and for most of the 20th century Turkey's foreign policy neglected Arab interests. Why, then, would Turkish drama be popular with Arab audiences, especially at a time of unprecedented vibrancy in Arab cultural production? This article grapples with that question via a systematic analysis of pan-Arab discourse about Turkish popular culture, concluding that some Turkish dramas conjure up an accessible modernity while others enact a counter-hegemonic narrative that puts Middle Easterners in the role of heroes. The rise of Turkish television drama in the Arab public sphere offers insights into the geopolitical underpinnings and geocultural consequences of transnational media flows.
Published in Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 17-29