27 October 2006

1182) Imagining Turkish Nation Through ‘Othering’ Armenians by Ayla Gol

Department of International Relations, The London School of Economics and
Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK

ABSTRACT
National identities are socially constructed and inherently relational, such that collective imagination depends on a dialectical opposition to another identity. The ontology of otherness becomes the necessary basis of social imagination.

National identity can hardly be imagined without a narrative of myths, and the Turkish nation is no exception. This article argues that the Turkish nation was imagined as a modern nation with territorial sovereignty after the erosion of traditional Ottoman umma (religious community) identity. During the process of this imagination, the Armenians became the first ‘others’, whose claims over eastern Anatolia were perceived as a real threat to Turkish territoriality and identity. Based on the analysis of modernist theories of nationalism, the methodological concern of this study is twofold:

to explore the causal link between the policies of Ottoman modernisation and the emergence of Turkish nationalism; and to incorporate the self and other nexus into the relationship between the emergence of Turkish nationalism and the process of ‘othering’ the Armenians. .

Introduction

Every nation claims to be unique and to have a different identity from others. National identity can hardly be imagined without a narrative of myths, and the Turkish nation is no exception. The homogeneity of a nation is itself a myth that becomes the basis of many nationalist ideologies. Challenging these myths requires a critical approach to understanding history and nationalism.

The past we accept as an integral part of our social memories and collective identities is subjective and selective in accordance with the requirements of nationalist ideologies. The theoretical departure point of this article is that national identities are socially constructed and inherently relational, such that collective imagination depends on a dialectical opposition to another identity.

The ontology of otherness becomes the necessary basis of social imagination.

Nations and Nationalism 11 (1), 2005, 121–139. r ASEN 2005

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Imagining Turkish Nation Through "Othering" Armenians

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