Seeing Turkish State Formation Processes: Mapping Language and Education Census Data
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA)
Advisor and Dissertation Chair: Prof. Pradeep Dhillon
Committee Members: Douglas Kibbee, Fazal Rizvi, and Thomas Schwandt
Graduation: May 2011

Language is a foundational need in life with its function as the basis for all human communication. It also has a symbolic function in that it can promote social cohesion and allows nations to share (or perceive to share) a common culture and/or history. Moreover, for the Westphalian nation-state, language is also crucial component of the philosophical matrix that makes up a collective national identity. Thus, the Turkish context provides an interesting case. Driven by a desire to both modernize the new Republic and make a break from its Ottoman past, one of the most dramatic reforms that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk instituted after establishing the Turkish Republic in 1923, was the Turkish language reform. This reform became one of the symbolic and institutional pillars that the Turkish Republic was based on.

For this project, archival source data was digitized, aggregated by categories relevant to this project, at both the national and provincial levels and over the course of time (between 1927 and 2000). These data were then re-aggregated into values that were compared longitudinally and then layered on aspatial administrative maps. Using case study methods to frame the Turkish case and Webb et al.’s (1966 [2000]) unobtrusive methods to collect, organize, and analyze the archival census data, the overarching questions this dissertation explores include:

  • What data sources are available for non-Turkish researchers to use? And does the use of non-obtrusive methods yield any new insights to this particularly well-researched topic?
  • Are there any observable patterns in the geo-spatial distribution of language, literacy, and education rates over time? And if so, what relationships exist between geo-spatial locales and various indicators, e.g., ethno-linguistics and access to basic/higher education?
  • What do longitudinal shifts in these variables suggest about how language and education policy reforms were implemented in the past and the way it might contribute to the present day academic achievement gap in Turkey?
  • What implications does a Historical Geographic Information System (HGIS) approach towards Turkey have in further analyzing links between language, language and education policies, and state-formation processes?

This dissertation contributes to existing body of social policy literature by visualizing the geographical situatedness of the production of social inequity during the early years of the Turkish Republic.


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