Crafting Space, Making People: The Spatial Design of Nation in Modern Turkey

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Much has been written about identity politics in Turkey, mainly focusing on citizenship issues and analyses of state discourses. This article is concerned with a different dimension of identity-politics: the molding of society and identity through the construction of space. Based on a discussion of two cases, this contribution analyzes state attempts to craft ‘assimilating spaces.’ The first case discusses plans and activities to redesign the countryside in the 20th century. State institutions thought the principal shortcoming of rural Anatolia was the dispersed settlement structure and small size of the myriad rural settlements. In order to be able to establish the authority of the state in the countryside and develop a national body of people it was thought that a new rural settlement structure had to be developed, either by abolishing or clustering small rural settlements. The latest and most serious attempt to redesign the countryside was made in the war-affected Kurdish southeast at the beginning of the new millennium. However, this program encountered problems as a result of institutional disagreement and opposition from returnees. The second case discusses the issue of village- and street names and how through naming strategies a discursive national space was designed. Drawing on recent examples from the Kurdistan region in Turkey, this article show politics of assimilation were embedded in the state's discursive spatial practices, but also how these were resisted at the local level. Turkish nationalist discursive arrangements are challenged and a new discursive social space developed. Data for this article was obtained mainly through archival research, in particular the study of documents of state institutions, and field research
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Turkish Studies
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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