Theorizing Contemporary Turkey with Village-Life Nostalgia

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While early republican idealists unapologetically envisioned Turkey as a progressive, urbane society, ideological architect Mustafa Kemal Atatürk understood that success required involving the villager majority, as evidenced by his statement, “Turkey’s real owner and master is the true, productive villager,” (Sarı 2016, my translation). Early nation-building thus included an ambiguous commingling of developmental dictates with rural life sentiments (Üstüner and Holt 2007). While Turkey’s population is now significantly urban, I contend that village-inflected nostalgia indicates the ongoing importance of rural lifeways. Nostalgia has been identified as a discursive tool employed both by Islamists reframing Atatürk’s commitment to Islam, and by politicians and entrepreneurs, invoking Ottoman tropes to promote commodities like homes, art and cuisine (Özyürek 2007). Adding to these insights, this study: 1) Suggests that village-life nostalgia is co-constitutive with Turkey’s urbanization and modernization narratives, 2) Illustrates that flows of people and resources are not merely mono-directional from villages to cities but are far more circular, 3) Demonstrates that villagers in Turkey capitalize on embedded notions of village nostalgia within the national discourse to re-purpose and re-vitalize their local economies, and 4) Theorizes that nostalgia can be used as an analytic tool to assess perceptions of purported global flows and 5) Contributes to emerging literature on productive usages of nostalgia.


Humanities: 2nd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)


Turkey, nostalgia, village, lifeways