Social Scientist. v 16, no. 158 (July 1986) p. 46.

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Orientalism And Architectural Culture

WHEN A-PROMINENT Turkish architect wholeheartedly declared that ^...he too, has started making domes and arches951 he was only expressing what can perhaps be seen as the "Islamic Revival" of the last decade in architectural culture at large. The Western architectural world—its media, publications and exhibitions—is visibly permeated by an Islamic discourse, particulary heightened after the inception of the Aga Khan Awards Programme and the publication of Mimar in the early 1980s.

This renewed interest in Islamic architecture demands cautious evaluation since it has a two sided implication. On one hand, it represents an unprecedented platform of discussion for ^non-Western transition to modernity. By encouraging research and theorizing, it marks the posibility of authentic theory for cultures 'peripheral9 to the Western world.2 This possibility operates within a history {modernity problematique. It perceives modernity not as a Western category, but as a more or less universal set of problems to which there can be different, authentic responses, dislocated in time and place.

On the other hand, the interest in Islamic architecture also represents the possibility of further imagery at the disposal of an architectural culture of pluralism and consumerism—an imagery which is particularly marketable for rich Islamic clients. This possibility operates within an East I West problematique representing the East at the level of imagery. The products often end up as western 'commodities' with Eastern 'wrapping9 to be sold to the East. (I have to note that lam using "East99 and "West99 in quotation marks because it is precisely these words that I would like to question as discursive categories).

Here, I primarily wish to expose the cultural roots and background of the second attitude which I connect to the phenomenon of Orientalism. The term came to be widely used particularly after Edward Said^ seminal work Orientalism^ 1978. The book is a major intellectual contribution rigorously posing the problems of the East/West problematique, in fact, of any form of polarity thinking which, in many cases, obscures the actual complexity of the picture. It is therefore appropriate to first outline the main arguments of the book and look historically at the scope and status of the

* Dept. of Architecture, Middle East Technical Universe, Ankara.

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