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

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Turkish media frequently employ the term "White Turks" to describe the Turkish cultural elite. Although Turks are unfamiliar with American-style racial divides, the terms "black" and "white" are widely used to color-code inequalities in Turkey. The common tendency to distinguish White Turks from Black Turks on the basis of wealth, however, fails to uncover the historical and cultural dynamics that gave rise to these two groups. This essay not only offers a necessary clarification of this popular heuristic device but also proposes a perspective for understanding the current standoff in Turkish politics between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi) and the secular establishment, with their distinct value systems and competing claims to modernity. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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




                                            L
ABSTRACT
                                                   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, mucahitbilici@gmail.com

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




     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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