October 29, 2013 — Amy Hughes

Embodying Atatürk: Public Performances of Nationalism in Modern Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, once declared, “There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the flesh-and-blood Mustafa Kemal who now stands before you and who will pass away. The second is you, all of you here who will go to the far corners of our land to spread the ideals that must be defended with your lives if necessary.” In this talk, Amy E. Hughes explores how echoes of this declaration persist in Turkey today by examining some of the scripted actions that citizens perform as part of an enduring cultural mandate to celebrate Atatürk’s legacy. When Turks embody the “second Kemal” in daily life, Atatürk’s various reforms—instituted in the early twentieth century to secularize and “modernize” Turkey—are invoked, memorialized, and sustained. Recent attempts by the religious right to deconventionalize or eliminate these traditions signal the crucial and sometimes controversial role that performance continues to play in Turkish culture.