Inventing a Turkish Carlsbad: Yalova’s Development as the Republic’s Premier Therapeutic Landscape

By Kyle T. Evered
Submitted to Session P5346 (Space & Place in Turkey, 2018 Annual Meeting
History of Medicine;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Emerging from the Ottoman Empire’s 1922 collapse, the Turkish republic inherited a population ravaged by wars and associated diseases and famines. Regarding itself to be a modern state responsible for the health and wellbeing of its people, Turkish leaders created a public health infrastructure and introduced dramatic health campaigns to treat diseases, on the one hand, and to replace folk medicine and healers with science-based modern medicine and physicians, on the other hand. For centuries, however, Anatolian peoples utilized both cold and hot springs to treat various illnesses and infirmities. Compelled to either reject or reinvent these popular sites, Turkish officials opted both to initiate studies that would analyze and quantify the chemical compositions of spring waters and to recast the springs as sites integral to the republic’s curative infrastructure. While this approach appropriated traditional therapeutic landscapes in the name of modern medicine and science, others from within Turkey’s medical community argued against any ‘scientization’ of curative spaces. Contending that such places should be considered therapeutic not due to their chemical compositions or other measurable factors, they reasoned that these sites were entirely legitimate due to their more subjective factors and experiential evidence—noting their psychological effect in calming and refreshing ailing visitors. Additionally, many officials viewed these therapeutic landscapes as ones that might rival the famous spas and resorts of Europe. Amid these discussions, physicians and Atatürk prioritized Yalova, and advocates encouraged its development as a Turkish Carlsbad. Drawing on historical sources from the 1920s and 1930s (e.g., state records, medical journals, and medical conferences), this paper analyzes the framing of these sites, particularly Yalova, in order to engage with the politics of place and science in Turkey’s institutional and social geographies of medicine.