About

*this blog:

The title of this blog is a direct translation of the Turkish idiom “Çingene çalar, Kürt oynar“, taken to mean bedlam, pandemonium, out-and-out chaos. It doesn’t require a perceptive reading to realise that the expression doesn’t rate highly on the scale of political correctness. I don’t like the prejudicial aspect of it, but for all of its pejorative tone the expression has a poetic ring. When I first read the expression in a Turkish-English dictionary on a wintery İzmir afternoon it was immediately evocative.

I pictured a Gypsy firing off lightning fast riffs on a fiddle, while a Kurd stamped and whirled in abandon and raucous onlookers cheered and clapped. My vision was of unbridled rhythm and melody, of different peoples coming together to produce something distinctive, of traditions and ideas and cultures blending. Over time I have come to imagine this scene not just in Turkey, but also elsewhere in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, places where Eurasian peoples have commingled for a millennium and more, and no one can definitively say where Europe ends and Asia begins.

For the purposes of this blog, my gaze will be primarily trained on modern Turkey and its various peoples, but also those Eurasian realms mentioned above. My purview will be politics and society, but also literature, arts, events and cultural curios: I reserve the right to include basically any “stuff” that interests me. In doing so I hope to investigate both the proverbial “bedlam” of the Gypsy fiddlers and the carousing Kurds but also their collective creative output: the “mayhem” of domestic politics in Turkey and parts thereabouts, but also the rich cultures and artistic traditions of that broad dusty expanse from Sarajevo to Kashgar.

*the blogger:

Based in Melbourne, Australia, I’m a writer and editor with a particular interest the culture, history and modern day of the Turkic and Persian worlds (so aside from Turkey and Iran that includes the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and even the Crimea). Since 1996 I’ve written for a range of newspapers, magazines and websites, and since 2001 I’ve worked for Lonely Planet as a commissioning editor in Melbourne and London and occasional contributing author. I have a BA (University of Melbourne, 1990), an MA (Islamic Studies, Monash University, 2011) and in 2012 I started doctoral research at Monash University investigating Alevi and Kurdish minority identity in modern Turkey.

I like Aussie Rules football, roast lamb, dogs, gardening, reading, guitars and travel; I’m allergic to cats and I hate getting stuck in traffic.

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10 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello,

    I just came across your blog. Although recently retired, my own field is Islamic art and Near Eastern archaeology, which I have taught at OSU for almost 40 years. Having spent many years in Turkey–my wife of 50 years is Turkish and children were born there–and worked on and off in Iran, Afghanistan, India and W. China, I found your comments of interest. I am writing because you indicate an interest in Alevis and I’d like to put you in touch with a grad student of mine who is working on a related topic–the cem evi. Her name is Angela Andersen; email: andersen.53@osu.edu. She is currently living in Victoria (BC) but has lived for a considerable time in Turkey, Uzbekistan etc. I imagine she would be interested in your work and you might find hers of interest also.

    Regards,
    Howard Crane
    crane.1@osu.edu

  2. I accidentally came across this blog when looking for something entirely different (a song by Steve Earle, if you can imagine), but was completely delighted! I used to live in Xinjiang, and majored in Chinese and Islamic studies in college. That said, I don’t remember hearing of the ashiq at all, and now my interest is piqued! Thank you so much for the detailed intro to the Chinese documentary. I’m going to try to see if I can get a copy of it.

  3. Hi there, just found your amazing blog!!!! I dream of travelling in the same areas as you, I have small children, twins, 6 yo, so need to wait until they are older and can appreciate it (and when we hopefully have enough $ to travel!) in the meantime your blog makes me feel like I’m there! I am really interested in Uyghur culture and was just wondering if you know anywhere I can learn uyghur in QLD (Gold Coast)? Thank you! Jenny E

  4. Hi Jenny, thanks for your kind words. It’s great to get such lovely feedback! Best of luck planning your travels. I think the chances of finding Uyghur speakers in Qld may be slim, but I know there is a Uyghur community in Adelaide – you could try Googling them. If you want to learn a few stock phrases have a look here: http://www.omniglot.com/language/phrases/uyghur.htm If you speak to the Uyghurs in their language they will *LOVE* *LOVE* *LOVE* it, so it’s certainly worth making some effort. The language is related to Turkish – things like numbers and a lot of vocab is exactly the same – so learning some Turkish would also be helpful. Cheers, Will

  5. Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog while looking up information on the Yazidis from Iraq. I am a Spanish / History teacher from the US, living and working in Amman, Jordan. I teach at an international school and we have a wide range of nationalities, creeds, and backgrounds represented in Amman.
    I really appreciate your writing…it is so refreshing to read scholarly-based blogging these days. I wish I had found your blog before I took my daughters on a trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina last year. In any case, I’m reading now.
    I hope you make some more entries soon. Have you been to the Levant area? Amman in particular?
    Best wishes to you.
    Jennifer

    • Hello Jennifer,
      many thanks for your message – it’s greatly appreciated! I’ve been busy lately so haven’t had much time to write posts, but I hope to get started again this year.
      And yes, I’ve been to the Levant. I travelled through Syria and Jordan waaaay back in 1992. Syrians were the friendliest people I have ever met!
      Best wishes!
      William

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