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Kemalism as a language for Turkish politics: cultivation, reproduction, negotiation

Glyptis, Agapi-Leda (2007) Kemalism as a language for Turkish politics: cultivation, reproduction, negotiation. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Every political system has a shared language of symbols, narratives and priorities through which legitimation is sought. This language is basic and schematic, yet it generates 'legitimate' priorities and objectives. My interest is two-fold: firstly, how is this language reproduced, disseminated and upheld? Secondly, how is it used, interpreted and adapted to legitimise a wide array of actions, policies or ideas? I seek to answer these questions in light of Turkey's EU ambitions. I sketch the prescriptions of what I call the normative core of Turkish politics, as expressed through national socialisation, the Constitution and the raison d'etre of key institutions. I show how institutions such as the military, judiciary and Presidency legitimise their actions through appeals to this normative core, thus reproducing it with little variation, while simultaneously reproducing a shared language of politics. I also highlight the wide dissemination this language enjoys through education and early learning as well as its symbolic reproduction through spatial narratives such as national sites, museums and monuments. Having demonstrated how this language is institutionally entrenched, widely disseminated and extensively used for the legitimation of public activities, I turn to the question of whether its constraints also create opportunities. I argue that Turkey's EU ambitions have actually led to the proliferation of such opportunities by introducing an alternative value benchmark in the pursuit of political legitimacy. Although the language is not abandoned, it is being actively enriched. After decades of tension and reform, the notions of 'secularism' and 'westernisation', cornerstones of the normative core of Turkish politics, are now open to debate. This could lead to a process of radical re-negotiation of political values. Alternatively, the constraints that the language imposes might actually outweigh the opportunities. For now, a delicate but fascinating process of negotiation is unfolding in the heart of the Turkish political system. My PhD seeks to explain and analyse it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2007 Agapi-Leda Glyptis
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JC Political theory
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Lieven, Dominic and Barker, Rodney

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