Towards a “New” Turkishness?: Islam, Education and the Making of the “Ideal Turk” under Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, 1950–1960
21 October 2020 / 18:00
Since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, two conceptions of Turkishness have set the parameters of the country’s national discourse: while one views Turkey as fundamentally secular, the other sees the country as grounded in religious principles. The official Turkish historiography posits that nation-building under Turkey’s founding elite ignored the country’s Islamic realities until certain developments opened up the political space that reconnected Turkishness with its Islamic roots. The electoral victory of the Democrat Party in 1950 under Prime Minister Adnan Menderes features in this narrative as the first of these developments.
Indeed, the 1950s would witness the resurgence of several religious elements that had previously been driven underground. Yet, did this engagement with religion really mean that the new administration aimed to recast Turkey’s national identity along more religious lines? What were the set of values that were supposed to make up the “ideal Turk” in the 1950s, and to what extent and in what ways were religion and Islam included in this collection of exemplary virtues?
This presentation will be an introduction to Sinan Ekim’s project that aims to answer these questions by employing education as a tool of analysis. After introducing the project in general, the presentation will focus on Grade 4 and Grade 5 history textbooks that were published between 1950 and 1960. By examining the material studied at these levels, the aim will be to tease out the norms and values the DP’s educational paradigm was meant to transmit. A particular emphasis will be placed on the changing pedagogical discourse on religiously-charged elements in this era.
Sinan Ekim is a PhD candidate at the Department of International History at the London School of Economics (LSE). He is also a Junior Fellow in the “Eastern Europe and Eurasia” programme at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome, Italy.
The Zoom talk will be in English. Limited seats, please make a reservation.