AbstractsPolitical Science

Mirrors of Modernization: The American Reflection in Turkey

by Begum Adalet

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Year: 2014
Keywords: History; Political Science
Record ID: 2026004
Full text PDF: http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/999



This project documents otherwise neglected dimensions entailed in the assemblage and implementations of political theories, namely their fabrication through encounters with their material, local, and affective constituents. Rather than emanating from the West and migrating to their venues of application, social scientific theories are fashioned in particular sites where political relations can be staged and worked upon. Such was the case with modernization theory, which prevailed in official and academic circles in the United States during the early phases of the Cold War. The theory bore its imprint on a series of developmental and infrastructural projects in Turkey, the beneficiary of Marshall Plan funds and academic exchange programs and one of the theory's most important models. The manuscript scrutinizes the corresponding sites of elaboration for the key indices of modernization: the capacity for empathy, mobility, and hospitality. In the case of Turkey the sites included survey research, the implementation of a highway network, and the expansion of the tourism industry through landmarks such as the Istanbul Hilton Hotel. Social scientific interviews, highway machinery, and hotel lobbies were less external sites of implementation for modernization theory than laboratories where it was manufactured and enacted. While such microcosms were designed to scale down competing visions of modernization and technical expertise to a manageable size, their implementation was offset by the resilience of recipient subjects, as well as anxieties and hesitations on the part of practitioners. The projects of the social scientists, technical experts, and policymakers were not tantamount to a straightforward process of Americanization; rather techniques of knowledge production and corresponding visions of development were dynamic and subject to strategies of translation that reworked the inevitabilities their creators imagined. Based on multi-sited archival research spanning government agencies, private corporations, and the published work and private papers of key social scientists, the project traces the history and concrete enactment of a political theory, one whose imprint continues to guide current debates on political and economic development.