The Self and the State: Bureaucracy and the Ethics of Identity in the Twentieth Century Turkish Novel
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“The Self and the State” examines the twentieth century Turkish novel and its use of bureaucracy as a critique of the modernization and secularization programs initiated by the Republic of Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) with reference to other national literary cultures in countries that are defined as post-Ottoman. Through an investigation of the celebrated Turkish intellectual and author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar (1901-1962) and his groundbreaking final novel Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü (The Time Regulation Institute; serialized in 1954), this project presents a case study in authorial resistance and alternative ethics during the Cold War. Tanpınar, who held numerous cultural and educational appointments and was elected to Parliament (1943-1946), played a central role in the formulation of the nation’s literary heritage yet remained a reluctant Kemalist. This project investigates Tanpınar’s use of bureaucracy as a means to frame identity as an ethical dilemma—either prescribed by the state and its newfound religion of modernization or recovered through a familial history that is represented as both spiritual and Ottoman. “The Self and the State” considers bureaucracy and the ethics of identity as a defining feature of the twentieth century novels of Turkey and the former Ottoman territories and explores the potential for a “post-Ottoman” literary culture.