"From Ottoman to Turk"
Historian Sara-Marie Demiriz on sacred elements in secular Turkey
A new study from the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” presented by historian Dr Sara-Marie Demiriz deals with sacred elements in the early years of the Turkish Republic. “According to its self-image, Turkey has been a secular state since its founding in 1923. However, even the untrained observer notes sacred elements in the Turkish state cult, which are mostly associated with the founding father of Turkey, Atatürk,” the scholar explains. In her study, she investigated the significance and function as well as the origin of the Turkish state cult and personality cult. The book is entitled “Vom Osmanen zum Türken. Nationale und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung durch Feier- und Gedenktage in der türkischen Republik 1923-1938” (From Ottoman to Turk. National and Civic Education through Holidays and Commemoration Days in the Turkish Republic, 1923-1938) and was recently published by Ergon-Verlag in the series “Religion und Politik”.
In her book, Sara-Marie Demiriz focuses on the question of the emergence of the Turkish nation state and the state cult established in this phase. In particular, she addresses the associated forms of expression and staging, their social function and their relationship to Islam. The study is limited to the single-party period of 1923-1938, but it also takes into account the major upheavals before and after that time. “The new nation state demanded a change in legitimation, which led to a new relationship between religion and politics,” says the historian. In a supposedly secular context, the Turkish Republic developed new ‘sacralisation strategies’ that assumed integrating and community-building functions within society. “The Ottoman subject should be trained to become a Turkish citizen with appropriate rights, but also duties,” according to Demiriz. The subject of the investigation is how the government implemented this (re-)educational measure, which means and strategies were applied and how the Turkish citizen was ‘conceived’ by the state elite. The doctoral thesis was written at project B6, Utopia, Political Religion and Violence in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, headed by historian Prof. Dr Hans-Ulrich Thamer. (Ergon Verlag/sca/maz)