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Early Acquaintances with Modern Mass Culture in Late Ottoman Istanbul: The Experiences of Child Audiences at Direklerarası

   Tunç Yaşar, Fatma; Ayas, Onur Güneş

Direklerarası, the core of Ramadan entertainment in late Ottoman Istanbul, rose to prominence toward the end of the nineteenth century at about the same time as entertainment hubs in Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and New York. Thanks to the legitimacy provided by the Holy Ramadan, which played a positive role in reducing public suspicion and uneasiness among Muslim families towards the products of early mass culture, Direklerarası seems to draw a larger children's audience compared to Pera and Galata, the epicenter of European-style entertainment and a location where non-Muslims were heavily populated. As a result, many children were introduced to emerging modern mass culture at Direklerarası, which offers a large variety of shows and spectacles grouped under the name of lubiyat in the Ottoman world, including theater, musical plays, juggling, circus, concerts, shadow theater and cinema. This article focuses on childhood experiences at Direklerarası using a wide range of primary sources from archival documents and official regulations to Ottoman periodicals and memoirs. It aims to discuss the moral and aesthetic concerns arising from the fact that the spheres of adults and children were not yet clearly separated from each other, as well as how this experience at Direklerarası was remembered later as a childhood memory.

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