Lovers of the Rose: Islamic Affect and the Politics of Commemoration in Turkish Museal Display

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This chapter explores Hilye-i Şerif, the calligraphic description of the Prophet Muhammad—and its significance in current Turkish politics. With roots in Ottoman literature, art and Prophet devotion, this genre is currently witnessing a striking artistic innovativeness. Under the theme of Aşk-ı Nebi (Love for the Prophet), several public exhibitions have been organised within recent, state-run mevlid-festivals, commemorating the birth of the Prophet. Here, a recurring motif has been ‘the Rose of Muhammad’, symbolically compounding Muhammad’s human nature and prophethood. The calligraphic art hence is associated with devotional and mystic traditions. Bodily-masculine, floral-symbolic and textual-Quranic references creatively intersect in visual/devotional objects of memory, affect and desire.

Concomitantly, the revival of calligraphic art carries political overtones. The exhibitions of devotional art have been orchestrated in central memory-sites such as Hagia Sophia and the Topkapı Palace Museum—contributing to the current sacralization of Turkish memory institutions and public-urban space. With a theoretical point of departure in new museology, nationalism, and memory studies, this chapter discusses the revitalisation of Turkish devotional art exhibition as part and parcel of a memory-political claim of the Ottoman heritage under the auspices of the AKP government. Empirically, it explores the broader political aspects of the museal-devotional landscape of Istanbul and probes into the textual and symbolic detail of contemporary Hilye-i Şerif calligraphy.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science
  • History of Religions
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeritage, Aesthetics and Belonging
Subtitle of host publicationGender in Turkish Neo-Ottomanism
EditorsCatharina Raudvere
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
Publication categoryResearch