Talk: “Modernization’s Other: Nostalgia for Village Life in Turkey”
Nathan Young, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Ohio State University
Date: Thursday, May 16, 2019
Time: 12.30 – 13.30 p.m.
Place: FEASS Building, A-130
Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, understood that success required involving the villager majority, evidenced by his statement: “Turkey’s real owner and master is the true, productive villager.” Nation-building efforts thus balanced developmental dictates with idealized notions of rural life (Üstüner and Holt 2007). Extant scholarship, however, insufficiently addresses the ongoing legacy of small-scale lifeways. Though the nation’s population is now significantly urban, I contend that nostalgia for village life continues to hold a prominent place in the Turkish imaginary.
My research asks: To what extent are “modernization” narratives enmeshed and co-constructed with nostalgia for village life? What is the significance of the “village” within Turkish imaginaries? 3) Can the pursuit of village-associated lifeways be evaluated productively as a reaction against modernity or post-modernity? Through interviews and participant observation in and around Izmir and Ankara, I uncover rural life affinities and apply them to interpret socio-cultural phenomena in Turkey, including urban-rural dynamics, hometown loyalty and concepts of the “good life.” My study thus uses the village as both a physical space and a node in the Turkish national imaginary to “think with” (Judt 2005; Liu 2012)
Insights gained from the Turkish context will be leveraged to interpret broader issues. These comprise the development of sub-urban spaces, efforts to resist flattening, “globalizing” trends which threaten local particularities, and activities to return to “natural,” small-scale environs, a phenomenon described as amenity migration (Osbaldiston 2012). My dissertation will speak to wider aspirations for a simple, communal, rural, “authentic,” way of life.
Nathan Young is a PhD candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the Ohio State University. He is interested in theorizing contemporary Turkey through folkloric and anthropological approaches. Nathan completed a Master’sdegree in Turkish Folklore at Ege University (2012-14). For his Master’s thesis, he conducted ethnographic fieldwork in four villages around Izmir, investigating how changes in “traditional” occupations such as agriculture and livestock affect village lifeways. At present, he is engaged in ethnographic research in Ankara funded by a Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship. His research focuses on how hometown (memleket) affiliation and nostalgic recollections for rural lifeways shape Turkish imaginaries. Nathan draws attention to ways that urbanization and developmental narratives exist in dialectic tension with preferences for small-scale localities. He also considers how nostalgia in Turkey may mitigate perceived effects of globalization and urbanization.