A Turk in Paris
Karagöz’s cultural and linguistic migration
in Turkish immigration, art and narratives of home in France
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This chapter argues that one sign of settling is an artist’s ability and willingness to critique not only the host culture, but also his or her own culture(s) of origin. Puppeteer Ruşen Yıldız uses the traditional genre of Turkish shadow theatre (referred to as "Karagöz", in reference to the main character), but writes his own scripts and performs in French, albeit a French inflected by the slang of immigrant housing projects. Even while Yıldız avoids simply recreating exotic folklore for a Western audience, he also draws on the historical and cultural roots of Karagöz to criticize both the structures of immigration and the patriarchal tendencies of some immigrant communities. Exploiting the possibilities of this inherently anarchic and subversive genre, Yıldız’s work continues the evolution of this traditional art form, introducing new stories even as he remains faithful to the original political intent of the form. Yildiz begins his productions by taking on easy targets, such as immigration laws and French politicians. Yet once he has lulled his audience into the colourful world of his puppets with humorous critiques sympathetic to his audience, he also asks them to confront their beliefs about gender roles, honour, and loyalty to the ‘home country’.

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