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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Südosteuropäische Geschichte

Zeynep Ertugrul


From Transnational Circulation of Ideas to Local Rituals. The Role of “People’s
Preachers” in the Language Day Celebrations during the Single-Party Rule in Turkey

In her project, Zeynep Ertuğrul explores circulation of knowledge, ideas and concepts central to the Turkish linguistic and literary nationalism through the prism of a political celebration, namely the Language Day (Dil Bayramı), synchronically organized in 62 provinces in Turkey between 1934 and 1948. The study of the speeches delivered during these celebrations, offers a privileged prism to study the intellectual foundations of Turkish linguistic and literary nationalism with a perspective decentered from the norm-makers and policymakers (political and intellectual elites).

The archival documentation related to this particular event organized by the members of People’s Houses (mainly primary, middle and high school teachers) will be analyzed to show that these celebrations, taken as literary and discursive events, are spaces of negotiation.
Leading intellectual figures contributed to the organization of both Turkish language reform and its celebration, inspired by ideas on “language”, “literature”, “nation” and “civilization” circulating internationally. At the same time, local actors legitimized the language reform not only by implementing these principles but also through a creative vernacular literary production.