Power Struggles in the Construction of a Modern Nationalist State: Locusts, Kurds and the Turkish Republic

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 15:15
Oral Presentation
Nevcihan OZBILGE, McMaster University, Canada
Inspired by the theoretical studies focusing on the modern nationalist state’s characteristic to reshape both social and natural worlds, this paper sheds light upon the increasing swarms of locusts and Kurdish revolts seen in Turkey during the decade following the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The newly established nationalist state had to deal with the Kurdish revolt in the eastern province of Agrı around the same period as the swarms of locusts. By means of an exploration of the documents from the Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Parliamentary Minutes, laws and the press reflecting nationalist discourse, I argue that both natural and social resistance by the locusts and the Kurds was represented from within the same discursive framework. Likewise, both of these natural and social resistance was crushed by the modern nationalist Republic by means by the use of state power. Inspired broadly by such critical fields of study as social history, Subaltern Studies, post-colonial criticism and environmental studies, this paper attempts a discourse analysis of the above-mentioned primary sources in light of the relevant secondary literature and in the political, historical and social context of early Republican Turkey. This paper extends the modern Republican representation of and struggle with locusts to its homogeneous nation-building project in which the Kurds are represented as beast-humans. This paper criticizes the official ideological discourse adopted by the modern nationalist state picturing the Kurdish population as primitive and savage drawing an analogy with beasts found a wide coverage in the press in that period. Imagined as beast-humans, the Kurds’ revolt was also suppressed by the same military power deployed to suppress the swarms of locusts.