A backlash among the Anatolian population
In the midst of the turmoil in the Middle East, “Where is Turkey Headed?” is a lingering question, the answer to which remains blurry as social, economic and political factors fluctuate, bringing about a shift in the power balance of the region. In an attempt to gauge the seismic transformations witnessed in Turkey throughout the past few decades, Rainer Hermann’s book “Where is Turkey Headed? Culture Battles in Turkey” looks into the dynamics of social change from the broad perspective of a German journalist who lived in İstanbul for nearly 20 years. With a panoramic view of the history of the Turkish Republic as well as a background of the Ottoman experience, Hermann argues that the driving force for this change has its roots in the very society that has discovered its cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity and is pushing back against omnipotent government control. Dividing his work into three main sections, Hermann analyzes the various fronts of the cultural changes in Turkey, explaining the way in which they are modifying the ossified political and social mechanisms of the Kemalist doctrine. The book is an effort to juxtapose the various elements of Turkish society in an attempt to assess the developing but oscillating relationships among them.
In the first chapter of the book, “The Founding Axioms of the Republic of Turkey and How they are Challenged,” Hermann analyzes the various constituents of the Turkish elite -- the military and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) -- who consider themselves the guardians of the country’s integrity against domestic and foreign foes as well as the protectors of Turkish national security. In this respect, Hermann provides a historical background for the emergence of the Kemalist creed, the six doctrines of which -populism, republicanism, secularism, reformism, nationalism, and statism -adumbrated the political and social platforms of the ruling elite. Two aspects, amongst others, form the bulk of this chapter; an emphasis is put on the history of the military coups and institutions of violence in Turkey, with the Turkish generals acting as the power brokers policing the orthodox upbringing of Turkish society. Hermann argues that this not only dictated a homogeneous identity to all Turkish citizens but also brought a social and geographical stratification to the country. Being at odds, the gap is widened between the center and the peripheries, the inhabitants of which are regarded as “black” (siyah Türk) and hence lower-class Turks. Homogenizing in this way the standards by which a person could be a “real” Turk, Hermann explicates how the Kemalist elite failed to recognize the diverse cultures, ethnicities and even religions of the various components of Turkish society.
According to the author, the
THE BOOK IS AN EFFORT TO JUXTAPOSE THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS OF TURKISH SOCIETY IN AN ATTEMPT TO ASSESS THE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THEM
Rainer Hermann, “Where is Turkey Headed? Culture Battles in Turkey,” (Clifton: Blue Dome Press, 2014), 316 pp. ISBN: 9781935295211