Spotlight: Gizem Algan ƒ?TM06

By Stefan Deeran

I spoke with promising motion picture auteur Gizem Algan ’06 over a few pints at local St. Paul establishment, The Nook. After witnessing her ability to speak knowledgably and tactfully of global affairs, Algan might have a future in politics as well!
Your Majors?
HMCS Major. I have a double minor in Hispanic studies and communication studies.

Favorite Prof. in Humanities, Media and Cultural Studies Department?
That would be Michael Griffin. He’s also my advisor. I had my senior seminar with him as well. And I really like my Archaeology professor this semester, Andy Overman, he’s a very hilarious guy and I enjoy being in his class a lot.

What was your capstone?
I mainly read Orientalism, and Covering Islam by Edward Said. I am really into his theories about how the Media perceives Islam so I did visual representations of Muslim women in communications and mass media.

And you’ve completed an independent project this January?
It was a short documentary about Istanbul, how people cross continents basically everyday, ‘cause Istanbul stretches both in Asia and Europe. People go to work, go to school, live on one side, do something else on the other. And they do it as such a daily task…The bridge, the ferries and sea buses. It’s really interesting and it’s such a relaxing process as well, being on the ferry and just looking around ‘cause it’s such beautiful imagery.

So what do think about the Danish cartoon fury?
I can see where it’s coming from because imagery is prohibited in Islam. There’s no imagery of the Prophet so if you try to characterize someone that they believe so much in and you put in a caricature and make fun of that person it will raise some problems that lead to protest and murders. But violence is never justified. I can just see where it’s coming from.

Did you face discrimination in Spain?
No, because people usually can’t tell where I’m from and most of the time they thought I was Italian. Also people think I’m Arab. They don’t think I’m Turkish for some reason; they think I’m Persian mostly.

What is the racial identity of someone from Turkey?
I ask this question to myself a bunch of times, especially when I was applying for colleges. You know, they ask you to check a box Hispanic/Black/Caucasian and I didn’t fit any category so I’d always go with ‘Other’ and say Turkish.
So is Turkish an ethnicity or race?
It’s not really a race, some people think it could be Caucasian. I don’t think I’m white obviously. I mean the treatment I get definitely shows that I’m not white (laughs). So many people ask me at Mac if I’m Persian…I also have people try to talk to me in Arabic and some people think it’s weird that I don’t speak Arabic.

So why are Turks interested in somewhat distancing themselves from the Arab world?
What is left from the Ottoman Empire is Turkey…So there is a historical value of being Turkish versus being Arabic or eastern European or Greek and also trying to separate themselves from that part of the region because Turkey is about westernization and modernization. That’s how Attaturk founded Turkey. So if you go up to a Turkish person and suggest that they are Arab they will get mad at you…I am not degrading Arabs, I would love to speak Arabic actually. I am just saying it’s different but people from outside think that its all the same in the Middle East. There’s so many different countries and identities within that region you can’t just put it into one category. It’s so different with Europe. When you say “European nation” it always means greater values like European revolution, higher education. But Middle Eastern people: “terrorists.”

Did you have a picture of Attaturk in you bedroom?
At home? No, he’s everywhere, every office every school, basically he’s a very important man; if it wasn’t for him Turkey would have been such a different country than it is now.

Have you had any problems in the US?
There was an incident two years ago when we first moved into our house. We were across my street talking to my friend, this Indian guy. A guy comes out of his house, screaming into his phone, obviously talking to the police and giving descriptions of us “this dark skinned guy and this dark skinned girl, I don’t know what the fuck they are doing here, they are on my property” although we were on the street…Ten minutes later two cop cars show up and my roommate Craig [Moodie ’06] answers the door. And he has dark skin, they thought he was the black guy so they start interrogating him. It was such big drama around nothing.

Do you think Turkey will get into the EU soon?
I give it at least five years…being a 99 percent Muslim country, that’s scaring off people in the EU. It’s a ‘Christian Club’ as they say and also they’re afraid of this young population of Turks migrating to Europe. There are so many problems that have been brought up such as the Kurdish problem, Cyprus, Armenians, not being Christians but they could also be excuses. It depends on [their] intentions.

Armenian genocide?
Something wrong might have happened. I guess I would need to read more about it to have a justified opinion.

Where did you study abroad?
Barcelona, I fell in love with the city. It has everything you’d want. It doesn’t stop surprising you ever. The lifestyle is how I want to live my life. They are not just about making money, they know how to enjoy themselves…They know how to live, they pay attention to that. I found a job as a waitress and worked under the table on the beach…going out at night, going out with friends. It was a great time.

My sources say that you met your man in Barcelona and you are visiting him next week
(Laughs) Man, you have all the clues…I was gonna talk to my professors about being out of town and now they are going to know why.

What are the post-grad plans?
Well right now I am interning with a production company. They do short movies for liveliberal.org…so eventually what I want to get into is film. I had some internships at the beginning of last semester working on a couple of movies as a production assistant. I really love the environment…being a crew member, learning, getting as much as you can out of it. And it’s really important to network in this business…get to know more people. And then you launch another project from there, which is what’s happening to me now.

You feel that internship experiences are an invaluable compliment to Macademia?
We learn a lot of theory and it shapes how we see the world and what we should do but when you go out of Macalester to the real world they ask for hands on experience. They don’t really ask what “Did you read Stuart Hall? Or Edward Said?” You’ve read the theories, you know the scholars, you have ideas and then when you go out in the real world you can employ them into physical products. At the end it works out great when you can combine the theory with the experience of an internship.

Any final words of wisdom for the children?
Definitely go study abroad, do whatever it takes, I know its been kind of tough this last semester, especially for juniors. But it’s a great experience. You get so much out of it. It’s very refreshing, going out of the Macalester bubble.