Conference: 3rd national Congress of Anthropology Students, Mardin
Anthropology has had an ambivalent history and development in Turkey. During the formative period of the Turkish Republic, anthropology -and especially physical anthropology -- was institutionalized with the intention of providing a scientific basis for the secular and nationalist ideology of the state. Later on, however, it was neglected and even hampered by state authorities on the suspicion that it would pose a threat to the monolithic culture and identity politics of the state.
All this notwithstanding, sociology was valued and supported and sociology departments were established at almost every university. In these departments, social and economic structures and the problems of development and modernization were at the center of the programs. The approach of these programs was based on the premise of cultural and social homogeneity and was blind to cultural diversity and difference. As a result of this approach, many crucial issues and problems remained outside analytical scrutiny. Thus neglected, the discipline of anthropology survived only at Ankara University in the Language, History and Geography Department and at İstanbul University, where a program in physical anthropology was maintained. A program in socio-cultural anthropology continued at Hacettepe University until recently but then dissolved.
Against this historical background, a remarkable development has recently occurred in the field of anthropology in Turkey. In the past four years, anthropology students have organized annual anthropology congresses at the national level. The third of these congresses was held at Mardin Artuklu University and hosted by its Department of Anthropology. This revie touches briefly on the topics discussed. The congress was held on May 12-13, 2014, and was attended by more than 100 students from various universities including İstanbul University, Ahi Evran University, Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, Yeditepe University, and Cumhuriyet University. The congress lasted two days and 40 written presentations and 24 poster presentations were made.
The congress opened with a salutation in five languages: Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Syriac and English. This multilingual salutation was more than just a gesture reflecting the ethnic diversity of the city; it must be considered a deliberate attempt to represent the pluralistic understanding of humanity and culture within the discipline of anthropology. The department chair stated in his opening speech that anthropology can serve to throw light on the cultural and social diversity of Turkey and for that very reason the development of the discipline was deliberately hampered. He added that despite the fact that anthropology is a very prestigious discipline abroad, it does not occupy the place it deserves in Turkey. However, he continued, anthropology students can dislocate the embedded understandings prevalent in Turkey about sociology in general and anthropology in particular and can help open new horizons and develop new frames of reference in the social sciences as practiced in Turkey. He concluded that student congresses can be considered preliminary steps in this direction.
The topics of the presentations at the congress ranged from theoretical considerations to ethno-politics, class, gender,
THE CONGRESS OPENED WITH A SALUTATION IN FIVE LANGUAGES: TURKISH, KURDISH, ARABIC, SYRIAC AND ENGLISH