"Is the Turk a White Man?"

Race and Modernity in the Making of Turkish Identity


In 1909, the US Circuit Court in Cincinnati set out to decide “whether a Turkish citizen shall be naturalized as a white person”; the New York Times article on the decision, discussing the question of Turks’ whiteness, was cheekily entitled “Is the Turk a White Man?” Within a few decades, having understood the importance of this question for their modernization efforts, Turkish elites had already started a fantastic scientific mobilization to position the Turks in world history as the generators of Western civilization, the creators of human language, and the forgotten source of white racial stock. In this book, Murat Ergin examines how race figures into Turkish modernization in a process of interaction between global racial discourses and local responses.
Restricted Access


EUR €115.00USD $138.00

Biographical Note

Murat Ergin, Ph.D. (2005), University of Minnesota, is Associate Professor of Sociology at Koç University. His research interests include nationalism, race, ethnicity, cultural boundaries, and death.

Table of contents

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS INTRODUCTION CHAPTER 1: WHY THIS BOOK SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN Race and the Turkish Case Why Care About the Turkish Case? The West = Theory; The Rest = “Mere” Case Cases and National Boundaries CHAPTER 2: THE REPUBLICAN CONVERSION NARRATIVE Rewriting History CHAPTER 3: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE “WEST” Becoming White The Ghosts of the Past: Ottoman Modernization and Encounters with the West The Ottoman Interest in Race Ziya Gökalp: The Official Ideologue of the Republic? The Formation of the “Terrible Turk”: Western Perceptions The Problem of Periodization CHAPTER 4: RACE IN EARLY REPUBLICAN TURKEY Racial Vocabularies Mermaids, Fish, Humans: The Taxonomic Discourse Biometric Mobilization to Protect and Improve the Race Anthropometric Mobilization to “Discover” the Turkish Race CHAPTER 5: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AND RACIAL DISCOURSES Intellectual Exchange and Historical Contingency The University Reform and Émigré Scholars Conflicting Loyalties: Expertise in the Service of Local and Universal Agendas Afet İnan and Eugène Pittard: Personal Interaction in Search of Anthropometric Essences CHAPTER 6: RACE IN CONTEMPORARY TURKEY Race, and Ethnicity, and Nation Race in Contemporary Turkey CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX


All interested in the history of Turkey and contemporary Turkish society, and anyone concerned with race and modernization.