Abstract

The rise of Turkish television drama series—or dizi as they are known in Turkey—is one of the most notable media phenomena of the past decade in francophone West Africa, particularly Guinea. This is taking place at a time when Turkey has significantly ramped up its economic, political, and cultural investments in Africa, with countries such as Guinea, rich in natural resources and with geostrategic sea access, rapidly emerging as new targets for Turkey's outsized ambitions. This article asks what we can learn about the global circulation of Turkish modernity—a unique blend of tantalizing consumerism and piety conceptualized as “neo-Ottoman cool”—in francophone West Africa by analyzing the hugely popular dizi alongside public debates on Turkey's investments in energy, transportation, energy, culture, or construction. Drawing on Joseph Tonda's notion of éblouissement (dazzlement), it argues that Guineans, like other West Africans, encounter the dazzling images of Istanbul's rich and famous that permeate dizi in stark contrast with Turkish investments in floating power plants and public transport or the Turkish-built Abdul Hamid II Mosque in Bambeto, a popular quarter of Conakry. The article proposes the phrase dazzle-to-diesel to account for the constant oscillation between blinding power and toxic fumes that accompanies encounters with neo-Ottoman cool in West Africa.

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