Büşra Arı: The Politics of Poverty in Turkey: Managing Poverty through Economic and Social Planning (1950-1980)

This research aims to analyze poverty and how it can be most appropriately defined in the context of Turkey between the years 1950-1980. The concept of poverty has far ranging implications, which must be examined in order to understand a natural phenomenon that became visible as a social, economical and political issue. In the case of Turkey, poverty arose as a result of a series of wars and the political events that followed in the early Republican era. However, as of the 1950s, the prosperity of the newly rising trade, industry, and urbanization initiate a new era in defining poverty. The study outlines the new relations between the urban and the rural, then unveils the extent of how, in this new and uncertain environment, poverty manifested itself in the loss of ability to direct society consistently. This was a change that could be explained with reference to such factors as “agricultural mechanization”, “migration”, “industrialization” and “changing structure in the socio-economic status”. The study also highlights the political instability, cultural and ideological polarization in terms of growing law and order problems, political oppression, and major violations of human rights, which increased riots and strikes in the 1970s. This has brought a realization that poverty was one of the most central objectives. Following this political scene, the welfare state reinforced itself. Social services, education, housing, tax policy- all carried the weight of the poverty question. At the end of the period, poverty was still yet to be eliminated, substantial improvements in the disparity were not seen and many remained disappointed. While the approaches to poverty in the society are considered to be polarized, the underlying premise of this research is; How, then, can the question of poverty as a socio-economic and political issue be explained?


Zeynep Bursa: The “collective intellectual” at the origin of the conservative turn in Turkey: Prosopographic Study of the members of Intellectuals’ Heart (Aydınlar Ocağı)

The Intellectuals' Heart, positioned as more than a think-tank or a simple circle of intellectual socialization, has endowed the Turkish state with a doctrine named “Turkish-Islamic synthesis,” which allowed it to restructure itself on a religious and nationalist basis after the coup d'état of 1980. Very regarding the conditions of membership, it has remained ultra-elitist: all its presidents so far have been university professors. Originally composed of 56 (in 1970), the number of its members reached only 100 in almost 20 years.

At the beginning of my research, I was convinced that the creation of a repertory of members of the Intellectuals’ Heart was a prerequisite for the development of a problematic. Indeed, in the literature, there has been no study that is devoted solely to the Intellectuals’ Heart to its ideas or its political activities, even though a good part of the books and articles tackling the coup d'état of 1980 deals with its role. Therefore, I concluded a prosopographic approach was necessary to explain the organizational capacity of this relatively small association and to analyse how these intellectuals managed to build a political and intellectual network integrating quite a diverse population of political actors, including the leaders of right-wing political parties, renowned academics, the best hopes of nationalist youth, and even the members of the Armed Forces and the institutions of the Turkish bourgeoisie.

This research is based on the collection of all written and visual resources of each founding member of this association (biographies, memories, their books and articles in newspapers and journals, their translations, speeches, personal archives like photographs, letters, notes) and also draws on in-depth interviews I conducted with the members of this association who are between 80 and 90 years old today. 


Hüseyin Ҫiçek: Islam and Cold War. The Politicization of Islam in Kemalist-secular and Islamic-conservative weekly papers from 1952 to 1960

An analysis of the history of Turkish interdependence of secular and religious political discourse in the 1950s against the background of the formative phase of the Cold War is a desideratum in the research about Turkey, in particular regarding inner-Turkish discussions in leading weekly newspapers such as AKIS and Sebilürreşad. Right from the beginning, the Truman-Doctrine relied on freedom of religion in the confrontation with the atheistic USSR and thus created a completely new political constellation in Turkey. As an ally of the capitalist West it was no longer able to maintain the Kemalistic containment of Islam and thus enabled the emergence of a flexible understanding of Turkish Islam and Kemalism.

The research project uses methods of discourse analysis based on the sociology of knowledge (Keller 2006 et al.) and examines pertinent Kemalistic-secular and Islamic-conservative weekly newspapers such as AKIS and Sebilürreşad in order to point out the changes in its’ authors relationships and arguments in the context of the 1950s’ Cold War and to contribute to a new focus in the field of Turkish studies. At the center of the analysis are the alliances and the disagreements of religiously conservative and state supporting secular publicists in the government administration, who constructed common codes of political togetherness during the 1950s and thus had to renegotiate the Turkish understanding of religiosity, collectivity and identity in the antagonistic environment of the Cold War. The project is premised on the thesis that this kind of research focus makes it possible to avoid the dichotomy Kemalism vs. Islamists and instead understand their history of coalition buildings.


Léa Delmaire: Rise and fall of a public issue. Anti-tuberculosis fight in Turkey (mid-1940s to mid-1970s

In my thesis I aim to understand how tuberculosis gained and lost its status of "a major public problem" in the context of Republican Turkey. Using both Turkish and international archives and printed sources, my study starts from the mid-1940s, when tuberculosis began to be the number one sanitary problem in Turkey and goes until the mid-1970s. During the latter tuberculosis, even if it still existing, faded out to not being perceived as a major public problem anymore, not even an important sanitary problem, but was gradually replaced by cancer, cardiovascular diseases and the like. This period under study also corresponds to the time of the establishment of anti-tuberculosis policies, since the creation of a public problem can only be understood in connection with the advent of the public policies aiming at solving it. Challenging the mainstream historiography, my work shows that not only the state but various actors were involved in the creation and shaping of these anti-tuberculosis policies, the main ones being anti-tuberculosis associations and the World Health Organization. As a consequence, a great variety of differing conceptualizations of the disease coexisted. Studying a "social disease" like tuberculosis sheds light on the Turkish society of the time, and helps to understand the formation of the Turkish State "from below". At the same time, it touches upon more global phenomenon like the rise of international health policies.


Funda Hülagu: Women Intellectuals, Utopian Thinking and Communist Movement(s) in Turkey: A Critical Appraisal

During the 20th century, women intellectuals were an indispensable part of the progressive and leftist movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Some of them were pioneers in their artistic or literary production. Others were “activist-scholars”. Nonetheless, the “heroes” of the leftist and progressive movements in the MENA have nearly always been intellectual men, whose products have been considered as the lynchpin of progressive and indeed utopian thinking in this region. This study first aims at bringing back women intellectuals to the history of leftist movements in the MENA region with an exclusive focus on Turkey and especially on communist (and socialist-leftist) movements in Turkey. Although there has recently been a growing interest in life and products of many women writers (such as the growing interest in the literary production of novelist Suat Derviş) and scholars (such as the detailed bibliographical work(s) on sociologist Behice Boran) associated by the communist movement, the need to problematize the relation of these women intellectuals to the broader communist and leftist intellectual field[s] of Turkey remain a scholarly task ahead. Therefore, a second aim of this study is to contextualize women intellectuals, and investigate their standpoint within the mentioned fields. The non-conformity of these women intellectuals with male-dominated leftist circles has never been a secret, and yet the very political and ideological character of these non-conformists have always been sidelined, trivialized or even degraded. On the other hand, many women intellectuals appear to stay more committed to the utopian cause of the communist movement(s) rather to than the everyday politics or political strategies that do [generally] jeopardize the utopian roots of these movements.  The utopian thinking and commitment of these women intellectuals awaits not only to be recognized but also to be expounded. For the class backgrounds of these women; their relation to society at large; their position vis-a-vis “state feminism” in Turkey display non-negligible similarities to other women intellectuals in the MENA region. Finally, to deepen the main theme and the associated sub-questions of this research, the study will especially focus on the writings and activism of Suat Derviş, Behice Boran and Oya Baydar, but not to the detriment of others whose production was (sometimes) much limited and yet activism was broader and/or vice-versa. Therefore, the study will also dig into the agency of intellectual women such as Halet Çambel, Beria Önder and Reha İsvan, the industrious workers of the principle of hope.


Sevil Ҫakır Kılınçoğlu: An Oral History of Leftist Guerrilla Women in Iran and Turkey during the 1960s and 1970s

My research interests revolve around political violence, contentious politics, gender and life history. I am specifically interested in how individuals get involved in high-risk activism in particular and decide to engage in risky or violent activities in general. As a study of women’s participation and experiences in the radical leftist organizations which adopted armed struggle in Turkey and Iran during the 1970s, my dissertation project compares the two cases by employing concepts from the social movement studies and the life history method with gender in mind in line with relational and processual perspectives. My fieldwork was based on semi-structured life history interviews that I conducted with Turkish and Iranian women living in various countries in Europe including Turkey, Germany, France, and Sweden. During the fieldwork, I acquired practical experience with people from diverse backgrounds, ages and ranks; while exploring various methodological approaches to contextualize and historicize their narratives. For triangulation of my findings from the fieldwork, primary sources, and secondary literature, I studied various approaches to qualitative analysis. Consequently, I have become an ardent believer in the potential of not only interdisciplinary and multi-methods research but also biographical research to improve our understandings of various complex social, cultural and political phenomena.


Barış Alp Özden: Working Class Formation in Turkey, 1946-1962

This research explores the everyday experiences and changing meanings workers attached to their living and working conditions in Turkey between the end of the Second World War and the early 1960s. A primary target of this project is to explore the politics and ideologies of class as important elements of the historical process from big cities and weaving mills to national domains of social regulation, labor law and trade union policy. The working class appears to have been an active force and also a point of contention during the period which witnessed the dislocation of many producers from agrarian economy to industrial work in urban centers and with the visible expansion of wage labor.

One of the inspirations of this project is specified as the conception of everydayness as an effort to question large structural generalizations and recover specificity. This outlook guided the discussion on the local and quotidian contexts such as the housing conditions in big cities and the new leisure pursuits of working people in which the possibilities of class solidarity were created. In a similar vein, the changing regimes of industrial discipline and its impact on working class identity and culture in specific industries and individual workplaces are discussed in order to recover the diversity of workers’ experiences, on the one hand, and to detect elements of resistance and collective action, on the other. The study also aims to provide a discussion of the rich terrain of conflict between the state and workers’ associations as well as among the latter on the boundaries of class, changing meanings of labor and the role of the associational activity.   


Berna Pekesen: Left-wing authoritarianism in Turkey, 1960-1990

This project aims to provide a collective biography of the left-wing politicized generation of the 1960s and 1970s in Turkey with a special focus on the phenomenon of left-wing violence. By combining a generational and social milieu approach the project analyzes the social, regional and gender backgrounds of leftist protagonists in the indicated period. The project holds the hypothesis of a "leftist authoritarian habitus", analyses its expression and impacts, as well as the question how it manifested itself in the social relations within the groups. In doing so, the project aims to determine the conflict between traditional attitudes and "revolutionary" deeds among the radical leftist groups.


Caner Tekin: University Transformation in Tukey: Higher Education Policy and its Responses in History

Universities have evolved between requirements and purposes of society and those of governments, as Alexander Humboldt once stated. The discrepancies between the two, however, could often lead to interventions in the higher education, as in Turkey the university system undeniably became the battleground between various actors from the fields of politics, military, civil bureaucracy and education. From this standpoint, the present study explores the trajectories of higher education policy and university transformation in Turkey from 1946 university law until the 2000s. The period features main scientific trends, the proliferation and enlargements of universities, changing university autonomies in the face of political and military interventions, as well as responses from civil and academic society. 

The contemporary history of Turkish higher education policy ridden with the contentions among university management, academic staff and political forces entails a two-fold semantic logic. First, the cultural hegemony approach provides insights into the period under investigation, since the main aim is to understand the underlying factors behind the interplays between the actors of information production and policymaking. Second, the study builds on Tekeli and Ilhan’s approach to the definition, autonomy and functions of higher education to delimit policymakers and the administrative and academic sections of universities as the units of historical analysis. Based on the above approaches, the study orients its historical periodisation and narrative to these thematic structures: 1. Higher education and university autonomy within the scope of scientific trends and information production (e.g. the Humboldtian concept until the 1980s, followed by the “American” university system and then Bolivia process); 2. Higher education with the evolution of political power in Turkey; 2.1. Higher education and the influences of civil and military bureaucracy (e.g. the roles of the state security court and supreme court); 2.2 Higher education in line with power struggles of political parties; 3. Higher education in the context of economic development; 3.1. Higher education policies in line with migration, urbanisation and population changes (e.g. the directions drawn in governmental decisions and 5-year development plans); 3.2. Higher education in line with capitalist development (e.g. new universities for electoral purposes as well as foundations of private universities after 1980). 

The scrutinised documents similarly correspond to the university policy between scientific trends and political landscape as well as its responses at political and university levels. They consist of the laws of higher education from 1946, five-year development plans since 1963, relevant minutes of parliamentary and senatorial debates (online archives), applicable regulations at selected universities (i.e. Ankara University, Middle East Technical University and Istanbul University), as well as newspaper archives and published and unpublished eye witness accounts for the events critical to the period (e.g. rector elections at the Middle East Technical University in 1977; changes in the Council of Higher Education in 1973, 1981, and 1992).


Jan Markus Vömel: Order and the Moral Self: The Culture of Islamism in Turkey, 1950-2000

Mit meinem Dissertationsprojekt versuche ich einen neuen kulturgeschichtlich inspirierten Zugang zum türkischen Islamismus in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jh. zu eröffnen. Von besonderem Interesse sind hierbei die langen 1980er-Jahre (von Mitte der 1970er- bis Mitte der 1990er-Jahre), die ich als Phase des „Hochislamismus“ analysiere. Das zeithistorisch angelegte Projekt soll einen Gegenpol bilden zu politikwissenschaftlichen und ethnologischen Arbeiten, die Islamismus bisher vor allem als Epiphänomen des Politischen betrachteten. Hierfür erschließen Kapitel zum disziplinären Grundcharakter des Islamismus, zu islamistischen Genderrollen, zu Interaktionen mit Raum und Zeit, zum sprachlichen Framing, sowie zu Emotion und Erfahrung mit bisher wenig beachteten Quellen zentrale Dimensionen der islamistischen Bewegung. Der türkische Islamismus kann so in zwei Grundaspekten analytisch gefasst werden: 1) die disziplinär-holistische Neuordnung der Lebenswelt und 2) die Schaffung einer neuen Subjektivität als „bewusste Muslime“ (şuurlu Müslüman). Dieser interpretative Zugriff erlaubt es, den großen Erfolg des Islamismus und seine hohe Bindungskraft für einzelne Subjekte neu zu erklären. Über dieses Forschungsprojekt hinaus interessieren mich globalhistorische Aspekte der türkischen Zeitgeschichte im Allgemeinen und des Islamismus im Besonderen.


Alp Yenen: A Cold War History of the Turkish Civil War in the 1970s

After the student protests of 1968, a contentious stream started in Turkey between the radical leftist and far-right youth movements. Political violence intensified into a quasi-civil war after 1976, in which according to estimates at least 5,000 people were killed, thousands injured, hundreds disappeared, and many others found asylum abroad. This contentious stream resulted in the traumatic military coup of 1980 and formally ended in the constitutional referendum of 1982. Although Turkey went through formative changes during the “long 1970s”, this period remains an understudied area both in history and social sciences. After 1980s, a new post-Kemalist paradigm emerged, when liberal leftism, Kurdish activism, and political Islamism opposed the ontology and epistemology of the republican establishment. Ever since, the study of modern Turkey is dominated by themes of Kemalist nation-state formation, civil-military relations, and identity politics, which reframed the conventional “Turkish exceptionalism” as Turkish modernity’s troubled Sonderweg; hence, once again isolating Turkey from the world around it. While moving beyond this current mainstream, this project embeds the history of Turkey’s civil strife in the 1970s as part of the global Cold War. First, the project illustrates transnational networks, global frames, and cultural scripts of the radical left and the far right in context of the Cold War’s détente. Second, the project connects and compares the radicalization of civil strife and the military coup of 1980 with other contentious events in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Third, the project discusses the deterioration of state-society relations and shifts in the political culture as a consequence of the changing world order. The “post-modern” Turkey, which emerged after 1980, was part of a new Middle East, where the Cold War order came to an abortive end—a decade earlier than its formal end in Eastern Europe.