Reclaiming the nation, moralizing politics: narratives of political legitimacy in autobiographies of progressive Republican Party leaders

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Bilkent University
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In this dissertation, I examine how autobiographical writing becomes a peculiar political space for Kazım Karabekir, Ali Fuat Cebesoy and Rauf Orbay, three major leaders of the Turkish War of Independence and the Progressive Republican Party (PRP). I unpack how their autobiographies have continued to shape contemporary public debates on political legitimacy by redefining rulership, patriotism and the national character (milli karakter). The analysis of their autobiographies transcends the scholarly works that either view PRP as a peripheral opposition against a top-down modernist center or overemphasize the Unionist political legacy. Focusing on autobiographies instead of their party program reveals the most neglected aspect of their ideological legacy within the existing literature—an idiosyncratic form of elitist conservative nationalism along with this Unionist legacy. I offer an innovative interdisciplinary approach that expands the political science discipline with anthropological and literaryanalyses by demonstrating the centrality of contestations over nationalist morality in shaping the right-wing conservative politics in contemporary Turkey. I analyze PRP’s legacy by looking at how these autobiographical texts extensively build on moralizing discourses that presume a form of virtue specific to the Turkish nation—national character. Through an intertextual politics the authors claim to embody a nationalist morality that rests on character traits and dispositions that were displayed during the Independence War. I suggest that moralizing discourses ultimately reframe a complex set of political disagreements of the time in terms of character and personality—those who are worthy of representing and governing the nation, vs. those who are not.

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Autobiography, Conservatism, History of Early Republican Turkey, Nationalism, Progressive Republican Party
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