Enis Dinç: Images of Atatürk: The Commemoration of the Turkish Past in Audiovisual Media (2012-2016)

Enis Dinç:  Images of Atatürk: The Commemoration of the Turkish Past in Audiovisual Media

1 September 2012- 1 September 2016
ASCA, University of Amsterdam
Promotores: Prof. Frank van Vree and Prof. Esther Peeren
E.Dinc[at]uva[dot]nl

The Turkish State has for decades acted as a gatekeeper to ensure state control over the way the Turkish Republican leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is portrayed in public media. The government authorizes only certain narratives, in which Atatürk is represented as a flawless political leader, a godlike father figure, and a secular/modern man. However, in the 1990s, Turkey found itself on the threshold of a shift from a state-controlled to a liberalized political economy, a shift with implications for the country`s cultural industries. The broadcasting system, which had functioned under the strict monopoly of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), was transformed by the rapid explosion of commercial television channels, paving the way for a multi-vocal cultural environment. Because of this process, I will argue, the meta-narrative of official historiography constructed around the heroic image of Atatürk is now being challenged by new films and documentaries that represent him in alternative ways and, at the same time, propose other heroes.

In my research, I will examine the changes in the images of Atatürk and the involvement of visual media in the production of concepts of the “nation” and cultural memory. It is my contention that the transformation and manipulation of Atatürk`s media representation has important effects on the political and cultural life of Turkey, being a crucial element in the construction of national identity and political decision-making. I would argue that it is not only the different trends in Turkish government that modified the image of Atatürk but that this representation has also become an active element defining and framing the development of Turkish politics. Thus, it is my intention to investigate audiovisual images of Atatürk from his lifetime until the present in order to reveal this dialectical function of myth making for the Turkish state and society, and at the same time, to study the dynamics of practices of cultural memory, which may support or counter the official myth-making process.