[P4891] Law and Ideology in the Turkish Republic

Created by James Ryan
Sunday, 11/19/17 8:00am


This panel explores several ways in which the legal arena has witnessed ideological contestation in the history of the Turkish Republic. As a group, the papers track the consolidation and transformation of the Kemalist regime from its early days through to the politically fraught years that preceded the 1980 coup d’etat. In turn, each paper will demonstrate how legal processes such as amnesty provisions, resettlement policies, political trials, and legal thought acted as venues for the negotiation of many central questions of the Turkish republican project. Questions surrounding the nature of Turkish national identity, the character of the Turkish state, and Turkey’s relationships with its neighbors and geopolitical powers are threaded through each investigation. While each of these papers builds off of scholarship on the political history of Turkey, their emphasis on processes of lawmaking, law enforcement, and litigation offer seldom applied methods of analysis, and bring to light some critically overlooked sources.

A deeper study of the way concepts of legal “rationality” have been deployed to undergird the ideological project of Kemalism, as offered across these papers, is crucial to advancing our understanding of how thoroughly ideological policies are made legible for the public by making claims to practicality and widespread normative ideas about how peoples and nations ought naturally be organized. In the contexts of resettlement policies that relied on a widely held assumption that ethnic homogeneity was rational, and in the faith that “apolitical” and “technocratic” state apparatuses could bridge deep social and political divides, two of these papers investigate a kind of positivist rationality couched in legalistic language that represents an intellectual and political through line across Turkey’s various governments from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Two other papers share new vantages onto the ways political crimes were named, prosecuted, and ultimately forgiven in Turkey’s single party era (1923-1950). By using the legal forum to carry out acts of political repression, and political mercy, the government of the Republican People’s Party knew well how to use legal reasoning to punish, coopt, or silence their ideological foes while maintaining the legitimacy of the state during its formative, and precarious, first decades. These two papers demonstrate how the Kemalist state managed the intense ideological entanglements of this period through the court system, and through the selective pardoning and application of amnesty laws. Together, they suggest new ways in which Kemalist ideology was legitimized under the single-party state.


Hist; Law; Pol Science



Senem Aslan

(Bates College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ceren Belge

(Concordia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

James Ryan

(University of Pennsylvania)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Joakim Parslow

(University of Oslo)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Alexander E. Balistreri

(Princeton University)
I am nearing completion of my dissertation in the department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. My research examines the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of the polyethnic Anatolian-Caucasian borderland. More broadly, I am interested...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;