State building and nationalism have been widely examined in the context of both the late Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish Republic. This article explores the role of Islamic calligraphy and calligraphers during the final decades of Ottoman rule and through the twentieth century in terms of their contribution, both materially and ideologically, to the development of national identity in Turkey. Because calligraphy in Turkey has always enjoyed a unique relationship with Islam, it has been impossible to fully separate the art from the Ottoman-Islamic past. Having survived the transition in modern Turkey from the Arabic to the Latin script, calligraphy thus serves as an alternative, and perhaps subtly oppositional, form of expression in the Turkish Republic. That Islamic calligraphy continues to be appreciated in Turkey demonstrates resistance to the national identity handed down by Kemalists in an attempt to erase Islam and the Turks’ immediate Ottoman past since the 1920s.

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