Dissertation Title: “Mirrors of Modernization”: The American Reflection in Turkey
Dissertation Committee: Anne Norton (chair), Robert Vitalis, Timothy Mitchell (Columbia University)
Summary: My dissertation traces the history and political effects of social scientific theories, theories that are produced not in abstraction, but in the encounters with their sites of political, technical, and bureaucratic implementation. I examine how modernization theory was in fact produced in the Cold War interactions between American social scientists, their Turkish counterparts, and the social and material realities of Turkey. Visions of modernization were susceptible to risk and uncertainty along material, intellectual, and political lines and were subject to strategies of translation that reworked the inevitabilities their creators imagined. Buildings, roads, machinery, and surveys were the artifacts in which the intended reshaping of Turkey in line with modernization theory was received, negotiated, and rejected. Based on extensive multi-sited archival research, my project traces the detours entailed in the travels of modernization theory, which include not only resistance from recipient subjects, but also anxieties and hesitations on the part of producing social scientists. Through a study of modernization theory and the concomitant reshaping of Turkey in material terms, this study traces the history and concrete enactment of a political theory, one whose imprint continues to guide current debates on political and economic development.