To Kill or Not to Kill: State Racism and Children's Mobilization in the Economic Realm During the Post-Balkan Wars Era (1913-1918)


Chicago, Illinois


Thu, 11/17/2016 - 12:00am to Sat, 11/26/2022 - 5:30am


CMES Student Travel Award

Atacan Atakan, PhD student in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Beyond Social Science History: Knowledge in an Interdisciplinary World

Presenting on: November 19
On the chair of one of the panles on: November 18

Trauma of war has a potential to lead to considerable social, economic, demographic, administrative and/or geographical transformations within the states. As an outcome of trauma, this transformation is likely to occur also in discursive and ideological realms of the state. This possible shift in state’s mindset, can put some groups under the spot as protagonists to overcome the trauma whereas it can also scapegoat some people or groups who are represented as reasons of the trauma and as the main agents to blame, prosecute, discriminate, exile and even massacre. In other words, a trauma not only causes multidimensional transformations in the society but also is apt to form new conflicts and to initiate different and generally identity-related -based on race, ethnicity, religion and so on- tensions.

The Balkan Wars (1912- 1913) between the Ottoman Empire and the newly-established Balkan states including Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania, created a profound trauma within the empire. It led to consequential transformations in various realms, changed the empire’s demography substantially as a result of a huge migration wave of Turkish people who lived in Balkan region, and destroyed the idea of Ottomanism, which relied on the co-existence of different religious and ethnic groups in peace within the empire. On the other hand, it promoted the idea of Turkish nationalism and a nationalist as well as racist discourse. Though nationalism was a developing idea in the empire since the mid-nineteenth century, it reached its peak during the post-Balkan Wars era and its main propagator was the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), a political party, which was established in 1889 by the students in the Military Medical School in Istanbul, and which became a leading political actor after the inauguration of the Second Constitutional Period in 1908.

Within this context, specifically two groups, women and children, became important agents of thestate in promotion and representation of Turkish nationalism. Children were not only indoctrinated with the nationalist values, including patriotism, heroism and revenge, but also their everyday lives were shaped under the impact of this predominant idea. One important development regarding this point was the promotion of entrepreneurship among children who would become a part of national bourgeoisie in the future and would found their own enterprises. Besides entrepreneurship, both girls and boys were encouraging for saving money, consuming domestic goods, and shopping from local stores.

In this paper, I am planning to explicate how state and children relations shaped under the project of Turkification and Islamification of the market. How did the state implement its biopolitics to regulate the consumption habit of children and to determine their future occupations? How did the CUP instill racist discourse into children’s minds through its project of raising children entrepreneurs? To what extent did this project serve to promote State racism? What was the gender aspect of this issue? Constellating around these questions, this paper will claim and argue that CUP, through operating biopolitical mechanisms including regulation, sterilization and homogenization of the market, conveyed the State racism to children by making them a part of national embourgeoisement project. To argue my claim, I will give a theoretical framework based on Foucauldian perspective of power and State racism. Based on theoretical framework, in the empirical section of the paper, I will present some examples from a children’s magazine and a women’s magazine, both of which published in the same period in the empire, to show the indoctrination of children with State racism and racist discourse, and to show how Foucauldian “killing” of biological threat shifted into “killing” of economic threat in that case.