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The Turkishness Contract and the Formation of Turkishness

Barış Ünlü

Virtual Lecture

Drawing on the conceptual tools of Whiteness Studies, Barış Ünlü presents a historical-sociological model to examine the relations between the historical constitution and contemporary functioning of Turkishness; the socio-genesis of the Turkish nation and state and the psycho-genesis of the Turkish individual; the thoughts and feelings of Turks; and the structural privileges and unconsciousness strategies of Turkishness. What he means by Turkishness is not a bond of citizenship, a cultural identity, or a form of ideological belonging, as in Turkish nationalism. Rather, Turkishness points to certain structures of thought, feeling, ways of acting, strategies, and embodied performances that, for all their differences across lines of class, gender, or ideological belonging, also display a number of important shared characteristics that transcend such lines of differentiation— in other words, Turkishness as habitus. The roots of Turkishness, he argues, can be traced back to Turkishness Contract, a largely unspoken and unwritten agreement amongst the majority of Muslims in Anatolia that took place gradually between 1912 and 1925, the formative years of Turkish nationalism. Yet this contract is not a relic of the past. As the basic constitution of the Turkish Republic, unwritten, yet far more effective than anything in writing, the Turkishness Contract has, since the 1920s, defined the norms and rules of fields and institutions, and formed the schemas of thought, feeling, and action of individuals born, raised, socialized, and working within these fields and institutions, making them Turkish subjects. The Turkishness Contract also constitutes a particular “interaction order” that informs and guides countless everyday encounters, between individuals inside the contract and those outside.

Barış Ünlü has a BA in Economics and MA in Political Science from Ankara University. He completed his PhD in Sociology at SUNY Binghamton in the spring of 2008. His dissertation, entitled “The Genealogy of a World-Empire: The Ottomans in World History”, explores the formation of the Ottoman Empire from a comparative and world-historical perspective. His most recent book is: The Turkishness Contract: Its Formation, Functioning, and Crisis (in Turkish), (Ankara: Dipnot Press, 2018). In February 2017, with a State of Emergency decree, he was expelled from Ankara University, where he had been employed for 17 years, for signing the Academics for Peace declaration. He is currently a Philipp Schwartz research fellow at the University of Duisburg-Essen.