Elif Shafak and Difference

Elif Shafak is a Turkish novelist who is brilliant, insightful, and….yes, dare I say it, beautiful!  She has a TED lecture available on the internet which I strongly recommend on the subject of the Politics of Difference.  (See link below)

In this lecture she begins by telling of being raised by an educated and Westernized, single-mother in Istanbul.  She also tells of the influence of her mentally unstable grandmother who was somewhat of a natural-healer in the community.  One of the grandmother’s antics was to remove warts with prayer, incantations, and then drawing a circle around the wart with dark ink.  And Shafak declared that this procedure worked!  She once asked her grandmother about what the secret was and her grandmother told her, “Never underestimate the power of circles.”

Shafak then takes this image of the circle and developed the notion that anytime we draw circles, and do so rigidly, we kill anything within them  She explained how that when groups, for example, draw rigid boundaries around themselves they eventually do themselves great harm.  She argued that when we cocoon, when we ghetto-ize we are isolating ourselves and denying ourselves the necessary feedback from the world outside of ourselves.  Furthermore, she noted the obvious—when we are barricaded within our safe confines, we are prone to demonize all those on the outside, all those that are different, and at times we even seek to eradicate them.

And I close with my daily dose of W. H. Auden who noted, re this isolationism, “We have made for ourselves a life safer than we can bear.”



3 thoughts on “Elif Shafak and Difference

  1. Pingback: Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction « Writing Tips

    1. literary lew Post author

      I’m pleased that you checked in. I take it that this is you, Ms. Shafak, that has checked in. In that case I am doubly honored. You are a powerful presence in the world.



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