Dissertation Title: “Mirrors of Modernization”: The American Reflection in Turkey
Dissertation Committee: Anne Norton (chair), Robert Vitalis, Timothy Mitchell (Columbia University)
Summary: This project proposes a political theory in the material, with a focus on how theories are fashioned and enacted in consciously designed “laboratories” where political encounters can be scaled down and worked upon. I examine the case of modernization theory, which prevailed in official and academic circles during the early phases of the Cold War. American social scientists, policymakers, and technical experts identified the capacity for empathy, mobility, and hospitality as the primary indices of modernization. To this end, they constructed microcosms in which the problem of modernization could be reduced to a manageable size, where political relations and material objects could be directly manipulated in order to measure and cultivate modern subjects. In the case of Turkey, the material sites of theory construction included survey research, the implementation of highways, and the expansion of the tourism industry through landmarks such as the Istanbul Hilton Hotel. Yet, each project was open to strategies of translation that reworked the inevitabilities their creators imagined. Based on multi-sited archival research, the project traces the development and concrete enactment of a political theory, one whose imprint continues to guide current debates on political and economic development.