Sexualities in Order: Knowledge Production in Reşad Ekrem Koçu’s İstanbul Ansiklopedisi

 

Reşad Ekrem Koçu’s İstanbul Ansiklopedisi (the Encyclopaedia of Istanbul), published

between 1944 and 1973, is a massive project that offers absorbing information varied from everyday experiences to city-dwellers in different historical periods of Istanbul together with illustrations. Koçu ordered the material he accumulated over the years about the city in encyclopaedia format and intended to comprise the enormous registry of Istanbul [İstanbul’un muazzam kütüğü]. The multiplicity and simultaneity of diverse historical information, especially about gender and sexuality, is perhaps the most striking aspect of the encyclopaedia.

The encyclopaedia is by definition an alphabetical list that aims to bring order to thematic or generic information. As well, Koçu’s encyclopaedia project might, at first sight, appear so, as it puts historical information about Istanbul in order. Nevertheless, this paper aims to demonstrate the ways in which İstanbul Ansiklopedisi creates an unsettling order that makes room for unanticipated connections and engenders inconceivable associations focusing on, but not limited to, gender and sexuality. I examine how İstanbul Ansiklopedisi becomes a textual space that contains queer potentials, potentials that are not only about gender and sexuality but also about knowledge production in broader terms. That is to say, this paper concerns itself with the structure and organisation of İstanbul Ansiklopedisi, the recurring themes in which form a loose categorisation that is unthinkable outside of the textual space. Hence, this paper scrutinises the order and knowledge production in the formation of İstanbul Ansiklopedisi when writing about historically contingent Ottoman sexualities from within the mid-twentieth century.