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How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk

Provincial Newspapers and the Negotiation of a Muslim National Identity

By Gavin D. Brockett

Publication Year: 2011

The modern nation-state of Turkey was established in 1923, but when and how did its citizens begin to identify themselves as Turks? Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founding president, is almost universally credited with creating a Turkish national identity through his revolutionary program to “secularize” the former heartland of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, despite Turkey’s status as the lone secular state in the Muslim Middle East, religion remains a powerful force in Turkish society, and the country today is governed by a democratically elected political party with a distinctly religious (Islamist) orientation. In this history, Gavin D. Brockett takes a fresh look at the formation of Turkish national identity, focusing on the relationship between Islam and nationalism and the process through which a “religious national identity” emerged. Challenging the orthodoxy that Atatürk and the political elite imposed a sense of national identity from the top down, Brockett examines the social and political debates in provincial newspapers from around the country. He shows that the unprecedented expansion of print media in Turkey between 1945 and 1954, which followed the end of strict, single-party authoritarian government, created a forum in which ordinary people could inject popular religious identities into the new Turkish nationalism. Brockett makes a convincing case that it was this fruitful negotiation between secular nationalism and Islam—rather than the imposition of secularism alone—that created the modern Turkish national identity.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Series


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Addressing his Cambridge University audience in 1961 on the topic “What Is History?” the eminent historian E. H. Carr was concerned to stress the dynamic relationship of the individual, society as a whole, and the unfolding of events. Carr cautioned against situating “great men outside history” as “individuals who imposed themselves on history in virtue of their greatness.” Certainly, over the course of the ...

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pp. xv-xvii

The research and writing that have gone into this book would not have been possible without the patient support of friends and family. Almost twenty years ago my wife, Meg, and I embarked on our first trip to Turkey; since then Meg has shared my enthusiasm for understanding Turkish history and culture. This has meant living a more transient life than we would have liked. Nevertheless, in the midst of her own ...


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pp. 1-24

This book originated in a serendipitous discovery of vast collections of newspapers published in Turkey’s provinces in the decade following World War II. Gathering dust on the shelves of various libraries, these publications had gone unnoticed and remained an untapped yet potentially valuable source for the study of history. To be sure, various studies have documented the growth of printing and publishing first ...

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Chapter 1: Imagining the Secular Nation: Mustafa Kemal and the Creation of Modern turkey

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pp. 25-54

These first two chapters make the case for the absence of a popular national identity in Turkey prior to 1945. Not only did the “Turkish nation” not predate the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, but Mustafa Kemal did not succeed in inculcating in the people an identification with the new nation that he set about creating through the Turkish Revolution. Until political liberalization began ...

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Chapter 2: Narrating the Nation: Print Culture and the Nationalist Historical Narrative

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pp. 55-82

At the start of November 1922—on the eve of the Lausanne Peace Conference—the Grand National Assembly of Turkey passed a resolution bringing a formal end to the Ottoman Empire.1 According to Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish nation had been an immutable force in history with an illustrious past: now it was his job to awaken that nation and ...

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Chapter 3: Provincial Newspapers and the Emergence of a National Print Culture

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pp. 83-112

Mustafa Kemal Certainly was instrumental in the formation of the Turkish nation, but his contribution was neither as unique nor as complete as the nationalist historical narrative suggests. The process did not begin with him; nor did he achieve the desired results. During the period of single-party rule (1925–1945) the Kemalist elite articulated ...

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Chapter 4: Religious Print Media and the National Print Culture

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pp. 113-143

Social scientists studying modernization in the Third World after World War II assumed that increased mobility and exposure to new ideas through the newspaper and radio would inevitably result in the eradication of the “traditional” and the emergence of the “modern Turk.”1 Implicitly they assumed that religion would die a natural death ...

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Chapter 5: Muslim turks against Russian Communists: The Turkish Nation in the Emerging Cold War World

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pp. 144-172

The absence of a coherent Turkish nation and a popular national identity in Turkey throughout the single-party period is betrayed by the way in which, in practice, the Kemalist elite defined the nation in contradistinction to the people. During the War of Independence Mustafa Kemal had promoted the idea of a united nation struggling against ...

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Chapter 6: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Meh Med the Conqueror: Negotiating a National Historical Narrative

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pp. 173-202

After the Turkish success at Kunu-ri in Korea in November–December 1950 the Antakya daily Yeniyol reminded readers that the cost of participating in the Korean War was not without reward. Not only did the war offer Turkey the opportunity to resolve its ambiguous relationship with the West in the context of the emerging Cold ...

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Chapter 7: Religious Reactionaries or Muslim Turks? Print Culture and the Negotiation of National Identity

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pp. 203-221

The prevailing narrative of Turkish history credits Mustafa Kemal Atatürk with the creation of the modern secular nation between the world wars. It also defines Turkish history according to political developments in such a way that the year 1950 stands out as a point of rupture: the Republican People’s Party lost general elections and was replaced in government by the ...

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Conclusion: A Muslim National Identity in Modern Turkey

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pp. 222-227

So far Turkish historiography has been dominated by secularization theory that takes as axiomatic the “decline of religion” both among individuals and in society as a whole as a result of modernization.1 From the perspective of the early twenty-first century, it is clear that this simply has not been the case. Religion remains an important force ...


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pp. 229-263


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pp. 265-268

Published Works

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pp. 269-284


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pp. 285-291

E-ISBN-13: 9780292734913
E-ISBN-10: 0292734913
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292723597
Print-ISBN-10: 0292723598

Page Count: 311
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: CMES Modern Middle East Series
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OCLC Number: 741751271
MUSE Marc Record: Download for How Happy to Call Oneself a Turk

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Turkish newspapers -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mass media -- Political aspects -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Turkey -- Politics and government -- 1918-1960.
  • Nationalism -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Printing -- Social aspects -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mass media -- Social aspects -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Printing -- Political aspects -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Atatürk, Kemal, 1881-1938 -- Political and social views.
  • Identification (Religion) -- Political aspects -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
  • Muslims -- Turkey -- History -- 20th century.
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