Social engineering in Turkey from Atatürk to Erdoğan
May 30, 2015
This week I spoke to Alexandros Lamprou, discussing his new book “Nation-Building in Modern Turkey: The People’s Houses, the State and the Citizen.”
The People’s Houses (Halkevleri) were established in 1932 by Turkey’s single-party regime to plant roots for modernising and secularising reforms in towns across the country. Almost 500 Houses were opened until their closure in 1951, and the traditional view has tended to see them as homogeneous institutions propagating reforms strictly according to Kemalist state ideals. Lamprou’s research showed a far more ambiguous picture, with diverse local conditions across Turkey profoundly altering the work of the People’s Houses.
Here’s the interview with Lamprou in the Hürriyet Daily News.
And here’s my review of the book, in which I explore the limits of such social engineering campaigns – from the early Turkish Republic to today.
For those interested in these things, here’s a link to my interview from last year with Mahmut Makal in Bülent Journal. Makal worked as a teacher in a central Anatolian Village Institute, which like the People’s Houses were opened to accelerate the modernization of traditional society. Makal’s books on life as a village teacher describe the uphill struggle to spread reforms in the harsh conditions of rural Turkey in the 1950s, and he was actually jailed by the authorities at the time for painting too bleak a picture.
As a final note, the publisher I.B. Tauris have provided a discount code for online purchases of Lamprou’s book. Details are at the bottom of the review and the interview.