Wonderland Eurasia: Theme Parks and Neo-Ottoman Identity Politics in Ankara, Turkey

Tanfer Emin Tunc, Gokhan Tunc

Abstract


With an area of 1.3 km2 or 320 acres, Wonderland Eurasia, which is located in Ankara, Turkey, has been advertised as the largest theme park in Europe and Asia. Almost a decade in the making, it was completed in 2019 at a cost of approximately $250 to $350 million USD (1.5 to 2 billion Turkish Lira) and is seen by supporters as having the potential to boost the sagging tourism industry. This study, which is based on a July 2019 site visit to the theme park, will illustrate, however, that Wonderland Eurasia is much more complicated than appearances suggest. The authors argue that by deploying the imperial glory of the Ottoman Empire, the park constructs an artificial narrative of continuity that connects the past (through Seljuk and even prehistoric themes), to the present, and future (through robotic themes). This is not only meant to symbolically reinforce Turkey’s position as a regional ‘wonderland’—a social, economic, and cultural powerhouse with grand foreign policy aspirations—but in the process, is also designed to promote a neoliberal Neo-Ottomanism that involves an identity politics of historical elision and selective erasure. Tanfer Emin Tunc is a Professor in the Department of American Culture and Literature at Hacettepe University in Ankara. Gokhan Tunc is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. Of Civil Engineering at the Atilim University in Ankara. 

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303