Long before the White Turks/Black Turks distinction gained currency, the dominant academic metaphor for the analysis of Turkish society was based around the Center and Periphery model, introduced to the Turkish context by Serif Mardin in his “Center-Periphery Relations: A Key to Turkish Politics,” an article published in Daedalus (1973). Mardin’s discussion revolved around the challenge of integrating the periphery (Anatolia) to the center, a persistent problem facing power holders from the late Ottoman period through to the Republic.
Black Turks, White Turks: On the Three Requirements of Turkish Citizenship
Turkish media frequently employ the term “White Turks” to describe the Turkish cultural elite. Although Turks are unfamiliar with American-style racial divides, the terms “black” and “white” are widely used to color-code inequalities in Turkey. The common tendency to distinguish White Turks from Black Turks on the basis of wealth, however, fails to uncover the historical and cultural dynamics that gave rise to these two groups. This essay not only offers a necessary clarification of this popular heuristic device but also proposes a perspective for understanding the current standoff in Turkish politics between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) and the secular establishment, with their distinct value systems and competing claims to modernity.
Already have an account? Sign In.