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Accepted Paper:

Witch-Hunting in Ankara, 1948: Folklore Knowledge and Politics of Nationalism in Turkey  
Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Goethe Universität)

Paper short abstract:

The Turkish Folk Literature and Folklore Department at Ankara University, the only one in Turkey at the time, was closed due to the racial-nationalist agitation against academics in 1948. Pertev Naili Boratav, the founder of the department, along with several other faculty members, was labelled ‘communist.’

Paper long abstract:

Boratav had to leave Turkey and worked in France until his death. With his departure, systematic theory-building and critical analysis in Folklore Studies came to a halt, but folklore turned up in other knowledge sites, formats, and venues. In the Cold War framework, folklore in Turkey was practiced in hard-fought interdisciplinary constellations and in state-supported ‘public’ contexts. While in this period Folklore Studies in Europe became less nationally focused; discussed new epistemologies and theories; and searched for new disciplinary identities, folklore in Turkey supported an entrenching relation to nationalism. In academia and politics, what is single-handedly labeled as the antagonism between nationalists versus communists had existed at least since the previous century, but it reached a paramount in the 1930s due to Turkey’s rapprochement with Germany. Ideological camps after the 1950s became sharper due to emergent neo-liberalism and Americanism. Particularly, folklore becoming an area of debate between the so-called ‘nationalistic’ Right and the ‘revolutionary’ Left in the 1970s, was a part of the greater geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to polarizations in the greater society and academia. Using the case of Ankara University’s Turkish Folk Literature and Folklore Department to illustrate on the politics of nationalism, I will focus on the political and epistemological contexts of production of folklore knowledge in the Cold War era and argue that the ostensible ideological camps reveal more similarities than distinctions. I am interested in the ways in which frameworks of ‘competing nationalisms’ impacted folklore knowledge. My aim is two-fold: Having scrutinized ‘competing nationalisms,’ I will critically examine folklore’s epistemic rules in Turkey after the 1950s to unravel the reasons why scholars guarded an indissoluble relation to nationalism. On a broader scale, I aim to decolonize the historiography of European ethnology, whose epistemic myopia ignored the unique history of folklore in Turkey and placed it at the margins of European ethnology. By focusing on folklore at Ankara University, I offer new and broadened perspectives on the international history of folklore that can transform both Turkish and European disciplinary narratives.

Panel P03a
Collaborations and Confrontations during the Cold War and Into the Future
  Session 1 Thursday 9 June, 2022, -