Strategic constructions of national identity by political leaders in Turkey

Okuyan, Mukadder
The present study examines how political party leaders in Turkey strategically construct boundaries of the Turkish nation, which norms they attribute to it, and the prototypicality claims of these party leaders regarding the nation. Leaders’ national identity constructions are expected to be in line with their parties’ collective projects and serve to increase their claims of representativeness in the eyes of the electorate. A secod aim of the study is to inquire leaders’ attempts in rhetorically including the Kurdish population to the Turkish nation construction. The particular context was 2011 General Elections and the data was composed of campaign speeches of AK Parti, MHP and CHP. The campaign speeches given at Eastern and Southeastern regions of Turkey prior to the elections constituted the data. The analysis revealed that three leaders consensualized on the national flag, the official language, the unity of the land and the state as the claimed commonalities of the Turkish nation. Differences emerge when elaborating on the nature of the binding relationship between nationals. Erdoğan (AK Parti) puts more emphasis on religion, Bahçeli (MHP) underlines shared history and culture and Kılıçdaroğlu (CHP) depicts a nation based on citizenship. Nation constructions also involve attribution of national norms that also differ among parties and coincide with the topics over which leaders claim prototypicality. Apart from invoking national categories, party leaders argued over universal and other social categories (in this study; politician category) when constructing their rhetoric. Taking social categories for granted impairs the possibility of social change. Therefore, examining strategic purposes these categories serve, as in this study, is intended to empower those who struggle through their effects.


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Citation Formats
M. Okuyan, “Strategic constructions of national identity by political leaders in Turkey,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2012.