Black Turks, White Turks: On the Three Requirements of Turkish Citizenship by ProQuest


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									Black Turks, White Turks:
On the Three Requirements of
Turkish Citizenship
                                                                              MÜCAHİT BİLİCİ*

                                                   ong before the White Turks/Black
Turkish media frequently employ
the term “White Turks” to                          Turks distinction gained currency,
describe the Turkish cultural elite.    the dominant academic metaphor for the
Although Turks are unfamiliar           analysis of Turkish society was based around
with American-style racial              the Center and Periphery model, introduced
divides, the terms “black” and
“white” are widely used to color-
                                        to the Turkish context by Serif Mardin in his
code inequalities in Turkey. The        “Center-Periphery Relations: A Key to Turk-
common tendency to distinguish          ish Politics,” an article published in Daedalus
White Turks from Black Turks            (1973). Mardin’s discussion revolved around
on the basis of wealth, however,
                                        the challenge of integrating the periphery
fails to uncover the historical and
cultural dynamics that gave rise to     (Anatolia) to the center, a persistent problem
these two groups. This essay not        facing power holders from the late Ottoman
only offers a necessary clarification   period through to the Republic. We know that
of this popular heuristic device
                                        Mardin borrowed the term from Edward Shils’s
but also proposes a perspective
for understanding the current           The Constitution of Society. The conceptual
standoff in Turkish politics            origins of the distinction, while not acknowl-
between the governing Justice           edged by Shils, can be traced back to the Hege-
and Development Party (AKP,             lian master-slave dialectic. In the years since
Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) and
the secular establishment, with
                                        Mardin first applied this paradigm to Turkey,
their distinct value systems and        however, it has become clear that approaching
competing claims to modernity.          center-periphery relations from the point of

                                        * Professor, John Jay College,

Insight Turkey Vol. 11 / No. 3 / 2009
pp. 23-35                                                                                        23

     view of “integration” is rather too simplistic. Such an analysis fails to question the
     centrality of the center: it gives the impression that the incumbents of the center
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