Talk: “Rethinking Turkish Language Reforms: Language and Resistance in the Republican Era,” Ali Bolcakan (University of Michigan), A-130, 4:40PM December 20 (EN)

Dear Colleagues and Students,

On Wednesday, December 20, Ali Bolcakan from the University of Michigan will give the following talk, as part of the Center for Turkish Literature Speaker Series.

Rethinking Turkish Language Reforms:
Language and Resistance in the Republican Era

Ali Bolcakan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at the . His interests include Ottoman and Armenian Studies, Turkish-German minority literatures, literary theory and continental philosophy.

The talk will be in English and take place in A-130 at 16:40. Refreshments will be available.

The majority of the existing scholarship on the Turkish language question in the early years of the Republic treats issues of language and literary culture in the context of a volatile
transition from Empire to nation-state, focusing predominantly on the rupture between Ottoman-Turkish and Modern Turkish cultures and on the erasure of the Ottoman-Turkish heritage.

However, this exclusive focus on deculturalization misses the critical implications of the way
language reforms were intertwined with an agenda that sought to promote a monolingual paradigm.

This talk will trace the development and the consequences of the Turkish language reforms through the involvement of Turkish citizens of Armenian descent, specifically that of Agop Dilâçar and Zaven Biberyan, as a way to complicate the entrenched understanding of the
language debates, as well as of the alphabet and language reforms in the early Republican period.

Dilâçar was an important figure for the Republican language project and his involvement lays bare the complex underpinnings of this official enterprise of top-down linguistic reform. Zaven Biberyan was a novelist, journalist and an active left-wing politician. Taken together, Dilâçar and Biberyan’s works attest to a different kind of social, political and cultural existence and mode of writing that has been mostly excluded from Turkish historiography. Dilâçar voluntarily collaborated with state that reinforced hegemonic discourses to the detriment of other languages. But his insistance on the linguistic purism of a language that was not necessarily his own, or rather his only one, also hints at the ways in which
Dilâçar subverted the monolingual aspects of the language reforms. Biberyan, on the other hand, chose to write in an “unofficial” language with a limited readership, but also, and perhaps more importantly, was not afraid to alienate the native speakers of that endangered language with his radical politics.