November 2, 2016, 12:00pm
White Yellow, Black and Brown: The Racing of Political Discourse in Turkey, 1931-1945
Presenter: James Ryan is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Penn History Department
Location: Fisher - Bennett Hall Room 322, 3340 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

This talk will explore the deepening of ideological divides and the circulation of racist and anti-racist discourse in Turkey in the later years of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's rule through the end of World War II. During this period of Turkey's political history, we can witness the hardening of official positions on Turkish ethnicity and state ideology through the articulation of the "six arrows" of Kemalism, the Turkish History Thesis and the Sun Language Theory, and various policies aimed at marginalizing and oppressing non-Turkish and non-Muslim identities across the country.

Historical scholarship on Kemalism has already deeply explored the creation and application of these policies, but this presentation will focus on the reaction of opponents of the Kemalist regime to this increasingly ethno-nationalist stance. It investigates racist critics of Kemalism who were informed and sponsored by Nazi Germany, conservative modernists who embraced identities that were more pious and more openly occidentalist than the regime, as well as left-wing communists and socialists who began to layer an anti-racist mission onto their critiques of capitalism, imperialism and authoritarian rule both in Turkey and across Europe. In doing so, we can grasp a more holistic understanding of ideology and race in Turkish politics during a period of sharp disagreement amongst the political and intellectual classes. 

James Ryan is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Penn History Department. His dissertation, "The Republic of Others: Opponents of Kemalism in Turkey's Single Party Era, 1919-1950" examines the history of opposition movements in Turkey from the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the beginning of multiparty politics in 1950.