Making the secular through the body: tattooing the Father Turk

Erim, Irmak Bilun
This thesis examines the recent phenomenon of Atatürk’s tattoos through a twofold theoretical framework of body politics and secularism. Firstly, it examines the growing interest on the body in social sciences, which has focused on the body as a site of both docility and subversivity. Additionally, the body has been rediscovered as a fetish object through which selfhood and subjectivity are continually reconstructed and contested. These developments were simultaneously conditioned by and manifested themselves in an understanding of ‘the body as a project’. Secondly, the study explores Atatürk’s continued legacy in Turkish politics and for the nation-people. 73 years after his death, Atatürk still remains the utmost personification of the secular Turkish nation state. An effort is made to demonstrate how ‘the secular’, representing the normative nation-identity, and ‘the religious’, representing its Other, have been made in Turkish history. In light of these theories, Atatürk tattoo almost seems like an oxymoron: ‘tattoo’ carrying controversial and rebellious, and ‘Atatürk’ statist and conformist undertones. The main ambition of this thesis is to explore this contradiction through an analysis of whether the Atatürk tattoo is a spontaneous (body) politics on the side of ‘the people’ or whether it is a symptom of Kemalism’s current position in society and politics. Finally, to better understand the subject, field research has been conducted with tattoo artists and people with the Atatürk tattoo, in 3 cities, through the summer and fall of 2010.


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Citation Formats
I. B. Erim, “Making the secular through the body: tattooing the Father Turk,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2011.