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Şenol Cantek, L. Funda. Yaban'lar ve Yerliler: Başkent Olma Sürecinde Ankara. İstanbul: İletişim, 2003, 373pp.
“Strangers” and Natives: Ankara in the Course of Becoming a Capital City
Yaban'lar ve Yerliler: Başkent Olma Sürecinde Ankara
Şenol Cantek considers the transformation of Ankara during the transitional period which marks the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Turkish Republic, emphasising its reconstruction as the capital city of the new regime. The book aims to offer an alternative discourse to official history. Therefore, it refers to a wide range of sources encompassing not only those which represent the dominant state discourse but also the written and oral testimonies reflecting a variety of perspectives. The book consists of twelve basic chapters in addition to an appendix which includes brief biographical accounts of those interviewed by the author.
Şenol Cantek focuses on the shift of identity during this period. The Ottoman identity was portrayed as “other” during the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The new regime was determined to become a part of Western civilisation, detaching itself from the bonds of Islam and tradition, which resulted in a conception of national identity based on “Turkish” ideals. According to Şenol Cantek, Ankara, which was considered an alternative to Istanbul, became a capital city as an important phase of this nationalisation project. A rural city that offered a life style determined by traditional and religious values became the starting point of “Turkish” urbanisation, a living space for ideal Turkish citizens, and Westernised and modern everyday practices. The author details the clashes between the natives of the city and those who came from outside to actualise this project; he uses the equivocal Turkish word yaban, which means both “stranger” and “savage”. Şenol Cantek concludes that the natives were exposed to the orientalist gaze of those who came to construct Ankara, while the outsiders were viewed as strangers by the natives. As a result, Ankara became a meeting place of “the savages” and “the strangers”.
Yaban’lar ve Yerliler is a study which accomplishes its goal of offering an alternative narrative to the official history to a large extent. It is a unique book as it views written and oral accounts not just as historical documents, but as sources that deserve discourse analysis within their own contexts and conditions. Its approach to the subject from an interdisciplinary perspective with substantial references to architecture, history, sociology, communication, and literature renders the book exceptional.