Textualizing the Nation: The Sociopolitical Negotiation of Atatürk's Nutuk, and Visions of National Identity in Contemporary Turkey

Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

David D. Metzger

Committee Member

Bridget Anderson

Committee Member

Margaret J. Pitts

Committee Member

Craig O. Stewart


This dissertation develops a rhetorical framework based on the Communication Theory of Identity (CTI) to study national identity as it emerges in controversies around authoritative texts. This framework is applied to a case study on the discursive negotiation of national identity in contemporary Turkey. A recent controversy around Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Nutuk, the authoritative text of modern Turkish identity, provides an interesting case to test a CTI approach to national identity. The study illustrates the complex and subtle ways through which public and political selves can be linked to the nation. Analysis finds that political representatives may enact identities rhetorically (e.g., a parent of the nation, an intellectual, a reformer, etc) and frame their actions as identity enactments to justify their projects in the national context. In addition, within the political construction of national identity, core symbols are expressed as a set of common or unifying goals (e.g., science, democracy, etc) and are used to justify the goals that different political parties seek to instrumentalize. In this process, an authoritative text (e.g., Nutuk) can also emerge as a core symbol, providing an effective link between the individual and the community. However, the public and political individuals' differing views of core symbols (e.g., the core symbol democracy vs. hidden agenda) point to different visions of the nation, within which other nationals or political representatives may have identities ascribed to them. Thus, the study provides a point of critique for the theories of nationalism that tend to consider national identity as a self-concept of a nation and obfuscate individuals' various ways of envisioning a national identity.





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