Melancholy and the "other"

25 August 2005
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By looking at the construction of modern cities and the "other", Esra Akcan analyzes the meaning of melancholy: "In a world where modernization is defined as the 'universal' processes guided by the 'West', in a world where the 'West' is perceived as the subject of history, while the 'non-West' as its inferior translation, the 'others' that are excluded from this definition of 'universality' live through a loss or lack of a natural right. This is the natural right of being a part of this history, of belonging to the process of modernization that is conceived as the inevitable 'universal' achievement. This is what I would like to call the melancholy of the geographical 'other'."

WORLD = CITY. The back cover of Mutations by Rem Koolhaas, Stefano Boeri, Sanford Kwinter, Nadia Tazi, and Hans U. Obrist is a straightforward shortcut to the impact of globalization on architectural knowledge. This formula must be meant to suggest not only that the world is increasingly becoming urbanized, but also that globalization is turning the world into an intertwined set of urban zones, where an accentuated interest in the hitherto ignored parts of the globe is necessary. In current discussions, the city has replaced the village as a metaphor describing the speed of communications and the flow of capital throughout the globe. The crucial question to ask here is whether this city is fortified or open, medieval or modern in conception. The socio-economic theories of globalization usually focus on the decreasing authority of national borders in determining the flow of capital during the era of multinational capitalism.1 The information highways also point in the same direction, emphasizing the openness of and connectivity between the zones. However, our contemporary world would seem as an open city only to those who ignore the prevailing geographical distribution of power. There, actually, is no smooth correspondence between the flow of information and capital, and the flow of people. A quick observation of the visa rooms is enough to confirm this point – those architecturally neglected but indicative spaces that exemplify a unique combination of panoptic and heterotopic spatial principles, where a group of racially and ethnically mixed immigrants of some countries (“usual suspects”) wait for hours under the disciplinary gaze of officials. While the world’s borders are evaporating for some who can effortlessly travel from one continent to the other and perform simultaneously in multiple zones, the same borders are getting more and more closed for others. It is these “others” that I would like to address in this article, not with the somewhat naïve intention of “letting the other speak”, but in order to criticize the very making of the “other”.


Geographical categorizations, which are then used as premises of exclusion, have historically been very common in architectural knowledge as well. Architectural history and the canon is still written and taught in schools by employing tired categories such as the “Western” and the “non-Western”. It seems that a geographical “other”, the “non-West”, is sharply inscribed in our imaginations, which in turn influences pedagogical, disciplinary, and professional concerns, not only in European and North American countries, but also in countries that fall into the category of the “non-West”. But the word “non-West” not only refers to and maintains the ideology of an exaggerated difference between the “West” and its “other”, but it also disavows the differences within these “others” themselves. It completely undermines the centuries-long hybridizations between these geographical zones, their intertwined histories, the effects they made in each other’s cultural imagination, as if a “pure West” and a “pure East” can exist. Moreover, today maintaining the imaginary border between the “West” and its geographical “other” can hardly create any critical strategy in responding fruitfully to the current political conflicts. The response to this situation can hardly be achieved by avoiding the terms, however. Pretending that these constructions have never existed or ignoring the perceived contrast and hierarchy between the “West” and its geographical “other” does not offer an alternative, but merely disavow a fact. It serves as a disinterested ignorance, rather than a confrontation with the problem. Therefore, I suggest continuing the discussion to undo the hierarchies reflected in the term “non-West” not simply by avoiding the term, but by treating it in distancing and ironical quotation marks. This will destabilize geographical exclusions by confronting and patiently criticizing their consequences.2

It is in this context that I would like to address the issue of melancholy. At first glance, juxtaposing globalization and melancholy in the context of architecture may seem to the readers as the years-old regionalist mourning for the “lost sense of place” or the “lost past”. Such a definition of the term melancholy confuses it with nostalgia and it is exactly not the way I intend to approach the topic. On the contrary, in what follows I will define melancholy as the loss or lack of the right of being a subject of modernization as a historical process, and a part of “universality” as a construct. Rather than bipolar formal categories such as local vs. global or regionalist vs. modernist, I would like to discuss the topic in relation to its political context and the geographical distribution of power. This is a theoretical attempt to come to terms with the self-representation and inner-struggles of the geographical “other”.

“[…] certain [melancholic] bodies fear that the sky will fall on them, while others fear that the earth may devour them.”
Ibn’Sina, Canon of Medicine

“Ingresse, progresse, regresse, egresse, much alike, blindnesse seazeth on us in the beginning, labour in the middle, griefe in the end, errour in all. What day ariseth to us, without some griefe, care or anguish?”3

Melancholy has been a topic of interest for numerous writers and physicians since antiquity, including Aristotle, Ibn’Sina, Al’Kindi, Marsillo Ficino, Richard Burton, Immanuel Kant, Emil Kraepelin, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Melanie Klein, and Julia Kristeva, to name a few. Although the persistence of the term is significant, this does not mean that the definition of melancholy stayed the same over the course of history, nor did the distinctive features that differentiate melancholy, which is a common emotion, from melancholia, which connotes a mental disorder. Over the years, melancholy has usually been associated with sadness, suffering, and depression, but also with creative energy, brilliance, and thoughtfulness, and in some cases with idleness. Many writers have characterized it as the swing between opposite emotions such as joy and grief, cheerfulness and despair, love and hate, over-confidence and unjustified fear. In various theoretical accounts from different periods, the causes of melancholy have ranged from disorders in black bile to demonic manipulation, from over-education to loss of a loved one. In his three-volume opus magnum, Anatomy of Melancholy, Richard Burton alone associated melancholy with causes as diverse and at times contradictory as idleness, imagination, sorrow and fear, shame and disgrace, emulation, hatred and desire for revenge, anger, discontent, self-love, pride, love of learning, education, loss of liberty, poverty and want, death of friends, unfortunate marriage, and so on.4 As Jennifer Radden has concluded after an historical overview of the accounts on melancholy “[…] few of the descriptions reflect anything approaching empirical and clinical ‘observation’ […] Most were reached after close and careful reading of the accumulated writing on melancholy from past eras.”5

Thus, the idea of melancholy can be seen as a construction, a collective production defined through a series of translations, which in turn constitutes the human state of mind and emotions. I would like to underscore the fact that I am not using the term “melancholia” (defined as a pathological case) but “melancholy”, although the distinctions between the two terms are rarely clear-cut anyway. Moreover, the definition of melancholy as a common and “normal” human mood has unavoidably been shaped by psychoanalytical knowledge over the course of the last century, since it was this discipline that directed substantial interest to the topic. In this article, I am interested in explaining cultural representations that are permeated by a melancholic mood, which also participate in the evolving meaning of the term. Rather than melancholia as a clinical disease, I am interested in meanings and power relations that mediate between an individual and the world at large, which, in turn, informs the individual’s work as well as its reception.

To readers who might suspect an epistemic imperialism (in the sense of the reification of “western” categories as universally valid truths) in the use of the concept of melancholy for “non-western” subjects, I would like to respond by emphasizing the intertwined constructions of the term over the centuries.6 Tracing two genealogies may suffice as examples. As the two cases mentioned below should suggest, a concept like melancholy whose construction spans at least twenty-four centuries with considerable contributions from a variety of geographical locations; a concept that relates to such common human emotions as sadness, feeling of deprivation, anxiety, or thoughtful reflection can hardly be considered the property of the “West.” My intention here is not, by any means, to imply a “universal and timeless” definition of the term melancholy, but to refer to its intertwined construction over the centuries. The term must be understood in relation to both its historical and global persistence on the one hand, and its temporal and geographical variations on the other.

The first genealogy concerns the evolution of the term itself from antiquity until the seventeenth century. In one of the earliest accounts on the subject, Aristotle associated melancholy both with brilliance and with the fluctuating mood between confidence and fear, joy and grief, explaining its cause in terms of the vacillating temperature of the black bile.7 Medieval Middle Eastern scientists offered similar characterizations and improved explanations of melancholy as a disorder of the black bile. For instance, Al Kindi’s Medical Formulary is a testimony of the fact that a body of knowledge about the natural ingredients that “cured” melancholy was shared among these writers.8 When the Persian philosopher and scientist Ibn’Sina (Avicenna) entered the service of the court, he treated the prince of Rayy for melancholia.9 In The Canon of Medicine, Ibn’Sina used similar definitions for the signs of melancholy such as bad judgment, fear without cause, quick anger, delight in solitude, and anxiety. He also improved the Aristotelian specifications of the relationship between melancholy and disorder in the black bile.10 It is a well-known fact that the Middle Eastern body of knowledge later influenced the Italian writers of the Renaissance such as Ficino’s accounts on melancholy,11 to whom Richard Burton himself paid homage in the decisive work of the seventeenth century on the topic, The Anatomy of Melancholy.12

“I have found the definition of the beautiful. It is something intense and sad […] and a desire for life together with a bitterness, which flows back upon them as if from a sense of deprivation and hopelessness[…] Melancholy may be called her illustrious spouse, so much so that I can scarcely conceive a type of beauty which has nothing to do with sorrow.”13

“The beauty of landscape lies in its melancholy.”14

A second genealogy can be traced between French and Turkish modern literature, which would make the striking similarity between these two epigraphs more than a mysterious coincidence. During the twentieth century, melancholy (melankoli and its other arguable Turkish synonym hüzün) was a fairly common term in everyday language as well as prominent novels, poems, and cultural magazines in Turkey. In his recent book Istanbul, the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk draws connections between representations of Istanbul by French writers who visited the city in the nineteenth century such as Gérard de Nerval and Théophile Gautier, and those by prominent Turkish writers of the early twentieth century such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar and Yahya Kemal. Pamuk emphasizes the melancholic tone in all of these “western” and “eastern” representations of Istanbul, which in turn constructed his own perceptions of his home city. “A sense of deprivation and hopelessness” which was verbalized by Baudelaire as the definition of beauty, and which can be seen in Nerval’s and Gautier’s depictions of Istanbul’s landscape, also appears in Pamuk’s Istanbul, as the melancholy raised by wandering in the poor back-streets of Istanbul, in its ruins from past civilizations, in the midst of an urban landscape that has lost the glorious days it had during the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. The hüzün inscribed deeply in the urban landscape of Istanbul is a collective melancholy for Pamuk that unifies its residents. In Baudelaire and Pamuk, melancholy is no longer something internal to the subject, but something connected to the object. It is not a single individual who is melancholic, but the city’s landscape (manzara), “the beautiful object”, that elicits the feeling of melancholy as a collective emotion. Melancholy thus leaves the isolated individual and infiltrates the city itself. In the book that juxtaposes his autobiography with the biography of the city, Pamuk suggests melancholy caused by “poverty, defeat, and the feeling of loss” as the primary common emotion of Istanbul.15

“In mourning the world becomes poor and empty, in melancholia it is the ego itself.”16

“Every effort is made to bring the colonized person to admit the inferiority of his culture […] the confused and imperfect character of his own biological structure.”17

The coupling of melancholy and deprivation brings us one step closer to the meaning that I would like to emphasize here. Freud’s text “Mourning and Melancholia” arguably had the greatest impact on the modern interpretations of the concept. Though current scholarship in psychoanalysis has moved well beyond Freud, challenging many of his accounts on pathological conditions and proposed therapies, his basic definitions still serve to structure the starting points in discussing melancholy. Freud differentiated “mourning” from “melancholia”, and defined the first as a normal, and the second as a pathological reaction to loss. One of the most significant and decisive contributions of Freud’s theory of melancholia was its association with loss. Loss and deprivation were traditionally associated with the term, but it was Freud who singled out loss from a history of mixed definitions as the main cause of melancholia. In that, his translation initiated a significant rupture in the history of the word. For Freud, the lost object on which melancholia is predicated could be a loved person, a thing, or an ideal. In usual mourning, the subject overcomes the feeling of loss after a period of grief; in melancholia however, the subject resists confronting the loss of the object and preserves it in the shelter of his or her ego. According to Freud’s definitions, in the case of mourning, “reality passes its verdict that the object no longer exists,”18 yet in melancholia, the intense attachment of the ego to the lost object eventually leads to the lost object’s internalization by the ego. The loss of the object thus causes the loss of the ego itself. That is why, for Freud, “in grief the world becomes poor and empty, in melancholia it is the ego itself.”19 In melancholia, “the shadow of the object [falls] upon the ego,”20 so much that the loss of object and the loss of ego become the same thing.

Apart from his significantly accentuated emphasis on loss, Freud continued to use some of the common characterizations of melancholy, such as the swing between different moods. Melancholia in Freudian analysis is also specified with the love and hate relationship that the melancholic subject holds for the lost object, which is then directed to his or her own ego, given that the subject has internalized the lost object. Melancholia is “complicated by the conflict of ambivalence […] countless single conflicts in which love and hate wrestle together.”21 In melancholia, the ego swings between narcissism and self-hate, coming back and forth between a feeling of self-adulation and inferiority.

In an article discussing the state of “non-Western” architecture in the 1980s, the prominent architect Romi Khosla spoke about an “Oriental complex”, caused by Orientalism itself and the superiority myth of the “West”. He asserted that the “Oriental” believed in this myth himself, which in turn took over his own design process and architectural decisions.22 In his classic book The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon also articulated the psychological burdens of colonization and the subsequent national war of liberation on the colonized individual. A psychiatrist himself, Fanon stressed the feeling of inferiority resulting from the cultural politics of colonization. In one of the cases of mental disorder he analyzed, an Algerian husband who cannot sexually perform with his wife after her rape by a French soldier says, “she tasted the French”. In a completely different political context than the ones in Fanon’s and in Khosla’s minds, but in one that still falls into the category of the “non-western”, there was a similar glorification of the “western” visage and body in Turkey during the early Republican years of modernization. One may look at the pages of both official and popular periodicals such as La Turquie Kemaliste and Yeni Hayat [New Life] to see how being blond with blue eyes or doing sports “à la West”, living and working in “western-looking” houses and institutional buildings were promoted as signs of modernity, and were thus constructed as the ego-ideal of the upper and middle classes of a nation. Though the ego-ideal of each individual depends on various complex facts that are unique to his or her life experience, we can still talk about common factors in the ego-ideals of a society, since each individual is, at least partly, shaped by his or her historical and geographical context.

Ideologies of Eurocentrism traveling to the “Orient” cause the perception of the “western” (that itself varies and should not be standardized) as “the ideal” norm for humanity, its cultural productions including architecture as the inescapable international (implying “universal”) expression. In Freudian theory, the lost object causing melancholy does not need to be a person or a thing, but it may also be an ideal. The feeling of unworthiness and inferiority is nothing but the melancholic subject’s perceived distance from the ideal. What happens when the ideal is socially constructed as “unreachable” in the dominant cultural politics, namely what happens when the ideal is constructed through the hierarchy set between the “West” and the “non-West”? How does this reflect on the psyche of the geographical “other”, whose ideal is perceived to be something belonging to the “West” while he or she is excluded from the “West” in the first place due to an unfruitful segregation? What is a theoretically more rigorous way of discussing popular diagnoses such as “our inferiority complex”? What exactly is this “Oriental complex”?

At this point, we need to ask how much Freud’s models for normalization would work for subjects that are excluded from the definition of the “normal” in the first place, and criticize the strictly pathological borders he drew for melancholia. In his text, Freud himself implied but did not pursue the consequences of his gendered reading:

A good, capable, conscientious woman will speak no better of herself after she develops melancholia than one who is actually worthless; indeed, the first is more likely to fall ill of the disease than the other, of whom we too should have nothing good to say.23

Leaving Freud’s categories of good and bad woman aside, this statement implies that the more “the good woman” is conscious, the more she realizes her distance from the ideal and the more she becomes melancholic. When we consider the Eurocentric definitions of the normal, the universal, or the ideal; we can replace “the good woman” in this quotation with the “non-western”. The construction of the ideal as “western” (which is simultaneously perceived as unreachable) would seem to produce melancholy24 in the “non-western” subject. Orientalism and Eurocentrism stretch the distance between this subject and his or her ego-ideal. As Said put it, “psychologically, Orientalism is a form of paranoia25 that dreads the invasion of “our” (“western”) boundaries by “them” (“Orientals”). When Orientalism and Eurocentrism travel outside the “West” through practices of translation, I suggest that the paranoia of the subject of Orientalism constructs the melancholy of the object of Orientalism. As long as we are speaking about a collective melancholy inscribed through geographical distribution of power, the cause of this melancholy is no longer the loss of something previously possessed, but rather exclusion from or the lack of an ideal. The melancholy of the geographical “other” is produced by the “imaginative loss of a never possible perfection”.26 In a world where modernization is defined as the “universal” processes guided by the “West”, in a world where the “West” is perceived as the subject of history, while the “non-West” as its inferior translation, the “others” that are excluded from this definition of “universality” live through a loss or lack of a natural right. This is the natural right of being a part of this history, of belonging to the process of modernization that is conceived as the inevitable “universal” achievement. This is what I would like to call the melancholy of the geographical “other”.

Does this have anything to do with, say, the built environment? As long as we are talking about the common aspects in the individual’s psyche in a society, of which the architect is also a part, the answer is self-evident. Nevertheless, the influence of this melancholy on architecture goes further. The relation between the definition of an ideal body and architecture has been the topic of multiple theories. No need to review the impact of anthropomorphism on classical architectural principles for one more time here, but suffice it to remind that the body that this anthropomorphism is defined through is always a white, male, “western” body. Similarly, the ideology of ergonomics influenced world architecture more than is usually assessed. From graphic standard books such as Neufert that originated in Germany but then carried to the whole world, generations of architects learned and applied several physical standards to their modern furniture, kitchens, bathrooms, and stairs. These modern norms were based on the dimensions and proportions of the idealized “western” masculine body à la Vitruvius, and ignored racial or gender differences. It was through the graphic standard books circulating through the whole world that the “western” masculine body was fabricated as the standard of humanity. These books reified the architectural standards in relation to “western” norms.

Fanon outlined two basic responses of the colonized subject to the perceived “inferiority of his culture”. The colonized subject either “takes every opportunity of unfavorably criticizing his own national culture, or else takes refuge in setting out and substantiating the claims of that culture in a way that is passionate but rapidly becomes unproductive”.27 Namely, a swing between self-love and self-hatred or still a swing between hidden envy and resistance towards the “West”. Both approaches, as Fanon immediately added, led to “impossible contradictions”. Coincidentally, in his three-part essay on “Asagilik Duygusu” [The Feeling of Inferiority] in 1943, Tahsin Banguoglu made the exact same observation about the “Turkish nation” during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire as well as the early Republic:

The feeling of inferiority makes people/men either timid or audacious. […] Like a pendulum, they swing between a fear of inferiority and a claim to superiority. At one moment they disappear into the ground, at another they burst out with a sense of heroic self-assurance.28 Just like individuals, the feeling of inferiority reveals itself as timidness or audaciousness in nations as well. Under the influence of this feeling, some nations […] start humiliating their own national culture, and relapse into a blind admiration and imitation of the foreign. […] National audaciousness is the counterpart of this feeling. […] [Then] nations exaggerate their national history, inflate their national power. They even embark on a claim to racial superiority and insult their neighboring countries for being “of an inferior race!” As a result they fall into a blind hatred for the foreign. […] Both audaciousness and timidness carry nations into a disaster.29

Without crossing the boundary of generalization, it needs to be noted that many local and foreign writers made similar observations about “non-western” architectural culture under modernization, whether they are in a political context of official colonization or not. Although not necessarily expressed in the terms of a psychiatrist, the swing between regionalist tendencies that glorify what is perceived as the local and “authentic” architectural achievements, and Occidentalist inclinations that usually come with the veneration of whatever is happening in Europe or North America, is a common story well-known to the architects and historians of the “non-western.”

Can it be that these two repeating patterns of modern architecture are, in fact, the two faces of melancholy where the “non-western” subject swings between fascination and resistance towards the “West” – a “West” from which the subject is excluded by definition, a “West” that is “lost” to the subject who is defined as the “other” of the “West”, namely the “non-Western”? Can we say that, in both cases, there is a melancholic attachment to a lost ideal, and an aspiration towards finding the lost ideal back in one of its representations? In the phase of fascination, there is an attachment to the architectural forms associated with the “West” as a substitute for the deprived right of being a subject of the history of modernization. In the phase of resistance, there is a reaction against the “West”, or “universal history” that it supposedly embodies, and an attachment to the traditional architectural forms as a substitute for the lost glory days of the past, (which are perceived as not being tainted by the feeling of being peripheral). The oscillation between fascination and resistance, the swing between admiration and reaction against the “West” is similar to the “countless single conflicts in which love and hate wrestle together”. As the word has been defined over the centuries by writers including Aristotle, Ibn’Sina, Burton, and Freud to name a few, melancholy is a fluctuation between sorrow and anger, joy and grief, love and hate, and I add, fascination and resistance. The internalization of the “western” ideal, the lost object, inevitably results in the oscillation between cultural narcissism and denounced self-image. Rather than explaining this condition as a conflict between, say, regionalism and modernism in architecture, or as a dialectical struggle between two groups with opposite positions, it is usually more helpful to conceive of it as a dilemma, a tension that exists simultaneously in one or a group of individuals. In other words, fascination and resistance are two faces of the same condition – a condition that is permeated by melancholy.

Ever since Aristotle associated melancholy with “brilliance” and “thoughtful being”, this meaning has scarcely left the connotation of the term, although it usually remained in the background.30 Melancholy is characterized as a sadness that nevertheless has charm, a desirable tune. This appealing sorrow has also been the retreat of the individual who wants to be disassociated from the dominant process of history, where “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism,” to quote Walter Benjamin.31 The melancholy of the “non-West” is sorrowful at one moment, angry at the other, and content for not being part of the dominating and oppressing powers at another.

To summarize, the making of a geographical “other”, namely the separation of categories as “West” and “non-West” with an explicitly inscribed hierarchy between the terms, may cause melancholy in a “non-western” individual. As long as the historical process of modernization is defined as a “western” ideal, namely as a process whose torch is carried by the “West,” this inscribed ideal becomes an unattainable lost ideal for the subject who is categorized as the “non-western” in the first place. The internalization of the “western” ideal, and the resulting definition of the “non-western” as the longing for the “western” ideal, and still the inevitable loss of this ideal by the “non-western” who is excluded from it in the first place is the cause of the melancholy at stake here. This melancholy is both the perceived distance of a “non-western” individual from the ego-ideal and the condition in which the attachment to the deprived right of being a subject of the “inevitable” historical process creates a dilemma that fluctuates between fascination with and resistance to the “West”. Coming back to our initial metaphor of the world as an open city, the crucial question to ask here is about the transforming power of globalization. The socioeconomic analyses are split in their stances whether globalization is an epochal change or a continuation of earlier economic structures. Leaving this economic discussion aside, the cultural interaction between different nations that has been amplified due to globalization is definitely not a recent phenomenon, although it has established itself in different political and economic contexts with accelerating intensity. The question is whether globalization creates a paradigm shift in the years-old ideologies that have textured geographical categorizations, or whether it just maintains the existing processes with new speeds. A world that celebrates its own openness, hospitality, and cosmopolitan ethics while remaining closed to some that it designates as “others” will create melancholic subjects amongst the ones that are left outside the borders of this gated city.

The stronger the belief that East and West belong together, the stronger the vigor to get to know the foreignness in one’s nature. With the growth of this vigor, the melancholy will sink down into the grave where it belongs.32

  1. Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents. Essays on the New Mobility of People and Money, New York: The New Press 1998; Saskia Sassen, "The New Centrality: The Impact of Telematics and Globalization", in William S. Saunders, ed., Reflections on Architectural Practices in the Nineties, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 1996, 206-218; Manuel Castells, "Globalization, Flows and Identity. The New Challenges to Design", in William S. Saunders, ed., Reflections on Architectural Practices in the Nineties, New York: Princeton Architectural Press 1996, 198-205.
    P. Hall, "Megacities, World Cities and Global Cities", Lecture delivered in February 1997, www.megacities.nl.
  2. For further bibliography see: Esra Akcan, "Critical Practice in the Global Era. Question Concerning 'Other' Geographies", Architectural Theory Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2002; Esra Akcan, "Öteki' Dünyanin Melankolisi. Bruno Taut'un Dogu Deneyimi", Domus m February-March 2001, 36-41.
  3. Richard Burton (1621), Anatomy of Melancholy, Vol 1. ed. T. Faulkner, N. Kiessling, R. Blair, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989, 272.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Jennifer Radden, ed., The Nature of Melancholy, New York: Oxford University Press 2000, 19.
  6. Over the last two decades, this has by no means been a minor concern. For a collection of articles on cross-cultural studies of melancholy and depression that problematizes the reification of "western" clinical categories as universally valid definitions, see: Arthur Kleinman and Byron Good, ed., Culture and Depression. Studies in the Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Psychiatry of Affect and Disorder Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press 1985.
  7. Aristotle, "Problems Connected with Thought, Intelligence, and Wisdom", in Problems II, Book XXX. trans. W.S. Hett, London, Cambridge: Heinemann + Harvard University Press 1957.
  8. It was suggested by different doctors that natural ingredients such as henbane seed, aloe plant, saffron, basil were good for curing melancholy. Al Kindi, Medical Formulary, trans. Martin Levy, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press 1966.
  9. L.E. Goodman, Avicenna, London, New York: Routledge 1992, 26.
  10. Aristotle commented that hot black bile caused over-confidence and cheerfulness, whereas cold black bile caused fear and grief. Apart from its temperature, Ibn'Sina also commented on the effects of the black bile in relation to its different mixtures. He suggested that the mixing of the black bile with blood in the body caused happiness, its mixture with phlegm caused laziness, and with yellow bile caused agitation.
    Ibn Sina, Canon of Medicine, trans. O. Cameron Gruner, London: Luzac & Co 1930. The English translation of the section on melancholy appeared as "On the Signs of Melancholy's Appearance", 77-78.
  11. Marcillo Ficino, Three Books of Life, trans. Carol Kaske and John Clark, 1482; repr., Binghamton: Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 1991.
  12. Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy.
  13. Charles Baudelaire (1887), Journaux Intimes, Ed. A. Van Bever, Paris: Cres, 1920, p. 84. I have followed the translation of Max Pensky with slight modifications in: Melancholy Dialectics. Walter Benjamin and the Play of Mourning, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1993, 151.
  14. Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul. Hatiralar ve Sehir, Istanbul: Yapi Kredi Yayinlari 2003.
  15. Ibid., 104.
  16. Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia", General Psychology Theory 1917; repr., New York: Touchstone 1991, 167.
  17. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington, New York: Grove Press 1963, 236.
  18. Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia", 176.
  19. Ibid., 167.
  20. Ibid., 170.
  21. Ibid., 172.
  22. Romi Khosla, "Crashing Through Western Modernism into the Asian Reality", in Proceedings of Regionalism in Architecture, Bangladesh 17-22 December, 1985 (Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1985), 58-60.
  23. Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia", 168.
  24. Considering that Freud's theory is unable to come to terms with the subjects of melancholia that are excluded from normalcy and deemed as "others", we need to use the term melancholy here (denoting an emotion) rather than melancholia (pathological case). This also points to the ambiguous and blurred boundary between the "normal" melancholy and pathological melancholia. Also see: Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press 1997; Douglas Crimp, "Mourning and Militancy", October 51 (Winter 1989), 3-18.
  25. Edward Said, Orientalism, New York: Vintage Books 1978, 72.
  26. Anne Anlin Cheng discussed the melancholy of Asian and African Americans in the context of American assimilation politics. Working with Toni Morrison's novel The Bluest Eye, Cheng discusses the story of the black girl in segregated America in terms of the melancholy caused by the "imaginative loss of a never possible perfection". Anne Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press 2001, quotation p.17; Also see: David Eng and David Kazanjian, ed., Loss. The Politics of Mourning, Berkeley: University of California Press 2003.
  27. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 237.
  28. Asagilik duygusu adami ya pisirik, ya atak yapar [...] Bunlar asagilik vehimi ile üstünlük iddiasi arasinda bir rakkas gibi gidip gelirler. Bir an yok olur yerlere geçerler, bir an sonra vücudu aleme rahmet gibi bir dahi bir kahraman kesilirler. Tahsin Banguoglu, "Asagilik Duygusu", Ülkü 5, no. 49 (1 October 1943), 1.
  29. "Asagilik duygusu fertlerde oldugu gibi milletlerde de ya pisiriklik, ya ataklik seklinde kendini gösterir [...] Bu duygu altinda pisirmis milletler [...] milli kültürlerini hor görmege baslarlar ve körü körüne bir yabanci hayranligina ve taklitçiligine düserler [...] Milli ataklik da bu duygunun tepme halidir [...] Bunlar milli tarihlerini sisirirler, milli güçlerini sosartirlar. Hatta irk üstünlügü davasina kalkarlar ve komsu milletlere 'Siz asagilik bir irktansiniz!' diye hakaret ederler. Nihayet körü körüne bir yabanci düsmanligi yaparlar [...] Ataklik da pisiriklik da milletleri felakete sürükler." Tahsin Banguoglu, "Asagilik Duygusu ve Sarlatan", Ülkü 5, no. 53 (1 December 1943), 2.
  30. Aristotle, "Problems Connected with Thought, Intelligence, and Wisdom".
  31. Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History", in Illumunations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken Books 1968, 256.
  32. "Stärker wird das Gefühl, daß Osten und Westen zusammengehören, stärker die Energie, das Fremde wirklich in seinem Wesen kennenzulernen. Mit dem Wachsen dieser Energie versinkt die Melancholie in ihr verdientes Grab." (Translation mine) Bruno Taut (1936). "Japans Kunst. Mit Europäischen Augen Gesehen", Manuscript of 1936, Nachlaß Taut, Mappe 1. Nr. 14. BTS 323. Akademie der Künste, Baukunst Sammlung, Berlin, 24.

Published 25 August 2005

Original in English
First published in Cogito 43 (2005) (Turkish version)

Contributed by Cogito (Turkey)
© Esra Akcan / Cogito (Turkey) / Eurozine

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