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,


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