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Cultural Analysis, Volume 19.2, 2021

Folklore “Outside” the Academe: Tracking and Critically Reassessing Folklore Knowledge in Turkey 1950s-1980s

Hande Birkalan-Gedik
University Frankfurt

Abstract: Keeping a distinct focus on the 1950s-1980s, I critically evaluate the development of “doing folklore” outside the universities in Turkey. Considering two case-studies in detail, I scrutinize the trajectories of folklore knowledge, its functions, and formats in non-academic settings. I argue that the 1950s brought unprecedented changes to the practice of folklore in Turkey. Because of escalating racial/nationalist discourses, folklore at the academe went into an era of silence but bloomed outside university settings. The concentration shifted from “science” to “knowledge,” which distinctively emphasized collection, display, staging, showcasing, consumption, and commercialization of folklore genres. All these activities contributed to different folklore milieus yet remained within the indissoluble contours of the nationalist state ideology in Turkey.

Keywords: Folklore knowledge; tracking and tracing folklore knowledge; historical methodologies; development of folklore in Turkey; public and academic folklore




In this paper, I will frame my analysis within the social, economic, and political transformations between the 1950s–1980s globally and in Turkey and examine the trajectories of folklore knowledge, its functions, and formats in non-academic settings.1 First, I will present the precursory activities among the Ottoman-Turkish literati to offer a context to understand folklore’s ensuing developments. The Ottoman perspective on folklore presents us with the nationalistic endeavors of a certain cultural elite, who considered folklore activities their national responsibility. These concerns later became in tune with the official ideology of the Turkish State, when in 1914, a distinct group of national ideologues, who understood folklore as collecting and display of national genres, founded the Folklore and Ethnography Department at Istanbul University, which functioned until 1918, until the end of World War I.

I endeavor to demonstrate that after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and with the foundation of the new Turkish State, folklore continued to be an affair of the Turkish Republic, as the activities of several folklore associations strengthened the state’s national aims, which continued in the following decades. The academic year 1947–48 was the culmination of the racial/nationalist discourses that impeded the activities of the newly founded Türk Halk Edebiyatı ve Folkloru Kürsüsü (Department of Turkish Folk Literature and Folklore) at Ankara University. Along with Pertev Naili Boratav, several scholars were accused of propagating communism. Ungrounded claims have resulted in court trials. Boratav was acquitted but the Turkish State cut the department’s funding. As a result, its professors and assistants had to leave their jobs.

Interestingly, there was no “coming to terms” with these traumas, but semi-professionals, a certain cultural elite, and bureaucrats presented new claims on folklore knowledge outside the university. Since the 1950s, actors, sites, and sources became more multi-faceted and were constantly re-defined, which gave way to ruptures, endings, and new beginnings.2 I interpret these developments as the dissolution of more significant claims for accessing cultural resources spearheaded by the new political elite. As a result, folklore became a concern of a heterogeneous group of experts and bloomed outside the academe. Nonetheless, it remained within the indissoluble contours of state ideology, whereby knowledge milieus of “academic” versus “non-academic” after the 1950s became even more blurred.

One can see the new directions in folklore in the post-1950s in diverse knowledge tracks, sites, and formats, which developed in tune with the political processes of the era. To substantiate my claims, I will concentrate on two cases: one institution as a knowledge site; and the other journal as a knowledge format, both of which worked in collaboration with each other and with the political organs of the Turkish State. Certainly, these cases can be multiplied. Among others, one can consider folk dancing, festivalization, and material culture forms that served for tourists and tourism, or attend to a variety of folklore associations and scholarly and semi-scholarly publications to prove similar points. The first case study will treat Milli Folklor Enstitüsü (National Folklore Institute), which was set up in 1966, as a state-supported institute and became affiliated with government authorities. It achieved a type of knowledge transfer by outreaching and reorganizing folklore knowledge through collaboration, education, collection, and archival activities. In doing so, social actors involved in its organization also challenged an established folklore canon. The second case will focus on the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları (Turkish Folklore Research), published between 1949-1980, to which the new cultural elite contributed. As a scholarly journal, it eased knowledge transfer by educating lay and expert folklorists, and, in a way, it “disciplined” applied folklore. Like Milli Folklor Enstitüsü, it rejuvenated the folklore canon by publishing field-collected materials and introducing new folklore genres in folk narrative and material culture, as they took important roles in various folklore activities.

By attending to these cases, I aim to show the complex connections of folklore knowledge to the long-standing themes of cultural brokerage, to the fluctuating roles of intellectuals in society. The mediality of specific folklore genres supports close ties to the economy (production), politics (representation and presentation), and society (reception). I am specifically interested in how folklore scholars formed this “new” folklore knowledge, as well as in how it functioned, which genres it represented, and which formats and perspectives it employed. While seeking answers to these questions, I will turn to the role of specific social, cultural, and political milieus in Turkey, which played critical roles in the creation, presentation, and dissemination of folklore knowledge. With various exciting tracks, folklore’s development in Turkey, in the post- Volkskunde context, is an excellent case to learn from.

Mediation, Formats, Political and Social Contexts of Folklore Knowledge

As the following pages illustrate, political, social, and economic contexts play significant roles in producing folklore knowledge (Aplenc 2010, Slavec-Gradišnik 2010). In the past two decades, folklore scholars in Germany have proven this claim in several studies. They tackled the various aspects of folklore knowledge such as its formats and knowledge milieus (Boie et al. 2009, Franka 2009). For example, they focused on encyclopedias (Fenske and Bendix 2009; Davidovic-Walther, Fenske, and Keller-Drescher 2009) and local monographs as specific knowledge formats (Davidovic-Walther and Welz 2009, 2010; Fenske and Davidovic-Walther 2010; Fenske, 2010, 2011). They aptly explicated the embeddedness of folklore’s mediality with the development of knowledge milieus by focusing on the interactions between the actors and sites of knowledge and their impacts on the presentation and learning processes (Keller-Drescher 2017; Boie 2013, Boie et al 2009).

In a similar vein, Sabine Eggmann offered analyses on knowledge as a new discursive plane for disciplinary history writing in Switzerland (Eggmann 2005, 2009b, 2013b). Eggmann and Oehme-Jüngling (2013) also brought together studies by various scholars that explored the relationship between folklore and the greater society. Konrad Kuhn’s plea to think about Wissensgeschichte (history of knowledge) shed new light on the development of folklore in the post-Volkskunde in Switzerland (Kuhn 2016, 2018b). Furthermore, Schürch, Eggmann, and Risi (2010) showed the complexities of folklore knowledge beyond university settings, specifically, in the example of SGV Sektion Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (The Basel Section of Swiss Folklore Association). Along similar lines, Bagus discussed the case of Hessische Vereinigung für Volkskunde (Hessian Association for Folklore) (2005), whereas Brinkel concentrated on the production of folklore knowledge in former East Germany (2008, 2012), demonstrating that intricate political and historical processes lay in the production of folklore knowledge.3

Besides, I find the discussions on public folklore in German and North American folklore traditions prolific, as both scholarships offer constructive ideas applicable to folklore in Turkey. Diverse folklore scholars, on both sides of the Atlantic, have already discussed and problematized the role of folklore, folk culture, and folklorists in modern societies (Bausinger 1990 [1961]; Kaschuba 1988, 2000; Cash 2011; Feinberg 2018; Bendix 1998) in various historical, political, and performative standpoints. Particularly since the 1960s, folklorists in Germany scrutinized the dubious engagement of folklorists in public folklore and criticized harmonizing effects of folklore studies with the regime’s ideology during the Third Reich. The political involvement of folklorists embraced critical, self-reflexive viewpoints that successfully countered the arguments on usages of folklore during the Nazi-Era (Bausinger 1999, 145). More importantly, folklorists in German-speaking folklore studies effectively problematized what public, lay, and the expert can be and how these different but interrelated groups communicated their ideas (Bendix & Welz 2002, 1999a, b). Contemporary post-Volkskunde scholars in Germany particularly treated, for example, emergent concepts in folklore studies focusing on “boundary work,” “trading zone,” and “cultural brokerage,” and expounded the complexity and ambivalence of the field (Dietzsch, Kaschuba & Scholze-Irrlitz 2009; Eggmann 2008, 2009a; Burckhardt-Seebass & Bendix 1999).

Folklore practiced in different domains, both inside and outside academe, created heated debates about “applied,” “academic,” “public,” “public-sector,” and “state-sector” cross-sections in the US folklore studies. These terms may have different connotations in diverse folklore traditions, in terms of audiences, purposes, and even writing styles (Abrahams 1992a, 1992b, 1999; Atkinson Wells 2006; Bulger 2003; Briggs 1999; Hansen 2019; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1988). Discussing various domains of folklore concerning knowledge is essential, as folklore will influence not only what people offer as folklore knowledge but also how, why, and for whom they present a specific knowledge type and format.

If we want to grasp the complex configurations of folklore knowledge in contemporary societies, we need to attend to the issue of “expert knowledge,” whereby we can conceptualize folklore’s engagement in non-academic contexts as well. The commonly held notion that applied folklore advocates change through the use of folklore materials in social, economic, and political spheres and that public folklore involves the presentation and application of folk traditions beyond the communities they originated cannot be accepted at face value as the borders between the two became more porous in the past decades. Numerous scholars directed our attention to issues of representation, ideology, and practice, which remain at the center of our discipline and blur these presumed boundaries (Montell 1983; Bronner 1991; Abrahams 1999; Bronner 2016, 2019; Baron & Spitzer 1992; Baron 1992, 1999; Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998, 2000). One can interpret these differences as divisive lines. They could also impose blurring effects as issues revolve, for example, systematic cultural intervention (Whisnant 1983, 1988) and ideas about the characteristics and the value of folklore (Hansen & Belanus 2020). Folklore scholars in Europe (especially in Germany) and North American tackled these conceptual issues very productively. This framework will help understand the complexities and the ambivalences of the out-of-academic track of folklore knowledge in Turkey.

Pretexts: Folklore in the Ottoman Empire and the Early Turkish Republic

The development of folklore in the Ottoman Era and the Turkish Republic should unriddle the development of folklore, first outside the academe, and secondly, within the academe, which is a story of two cesuras. The well-known story tells that, like its counterparts in the global ecumene, folklore in Turkey supported an indissoluble relationship with Turkish nationalism (Başgöz 1972; Öztürkmen 1992, 2005; Birkalan 1995, 2001). An interest in philological and literary sources among the Ottomans appeared in Tanzimat (Reformation) Era (1839–1876), at a time when the Ottoman Empire was in decline and seeds of the new republic were being sawn. In this period, various literati discussed many ideologies to save the empire from falling. Turkish nationalism became the new cement for the new Turkish state, signaling an effective paradigm change from the “Ottoman” to “Turkish.” The intelligentsia formed a repertoire by culling examples from folk philosophy and folktales and framed them within a romantic vision of the folk (Birkalan 2000). Some scholars (Tevfik 1914) linked the idea of folklore to proverbs and popular sayings; positioning the ordinary people as the essential transmitters of folk philosophy (Başgöz 1972; Eberhard & Boratav 1952; Birkalan 1995, 2001). The Turkish peasant, köylü became the romantic subject of folklore materials. Nationalism envisioned the folk as the quintessence of both the Turkish peasant and the Turkish nation, aiming to exalt the term “Turk” from its derogative implications (Birkalan 1995, 2001, emphasis is mine). Precisely in those years, the term folklore was introduced as a new “science” under several terms such as halkiyât (folklore), “folk-lore” (Köprülü 1914), or halk medeniyeti (folk civilization) (Gökalp 1913a, b). These different terminologies also signaled the differences in the scope, usage, and meaning of folklore as a new scientific activity, in a knowledge milieu where bureaucrats, intelligentsia, literary scholars, and national ideologues interacted.4

While the non-university settings had been the conventional knowledge site for folklore in Turkey, there is a short-lived history of folklore at the academe, coinciding at a moment of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. After the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, which toppled the ruling Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, nationalist ideologues, who were also political leaders and scholars, took active roles. An example of their systematized efforts was the professionalization of Turkology and folklore by inviting foreign scholars to Turkey (Birkalan-Gedik 2018). Prof. Gyula Mészáros, a Hungarian ethnographer, Orientalist, and Turkologist, received an invitation to teach ethnography at the Dârülfünûn (after 1933, Istanbul University).5 He became the chair of the Hungarian Language and Literature and taught courses at the Folklor ve Etnografya Kürsüsü (Department of Folklore and Ethnography) under Edebiyat Fakültesi (Faculty of Letters) between 1915–1918.6 This period marks World War I when many institutions faced severe difficulties. Thus, several professors went back to their homelands at the beginning of the 1918-1919 academic year (İhsanoğlu 1993, 524). During his service, Mészáros not only taught t folklore on the Turkish and the Turkic peoples (Namal 2014, 622) but also became the leading figure in establishing the Ethnography Museum in Ankara, an institution that presented the materiality of the Anatolian-Turkish culture and set the tone of “national ethnographic research” for the future decades in Turkey (Birkalan-Gedik 2018, 2019a, b).7

Here, I can offer a more detailed explanation of the Turkish folklore terms as I will be dealing with the terminology and its effects on knowledge formats in the following sections. Folklore vocabulary developed exponentially: The term halkbilgisi can mean the knowledgeof and about the folk, while the compound halkbilim means, in mirror translation, “folk(lore) (as) science,” which conveys the name of our discipline. Alternatively, various scholars employed the term halkiyât but abandoned it because of its Arabic roots. With the westernization processes of the Turkish Republic, the term folklor became preferred over the Arabic halkiyât (for an interesting study on these terminologies, see Ekici 2000). This gravitation is observable in the first BA thesis on folklore in Turkey, which belongs to a woman, namely Raife Hakkı (Kesirli). She wrote her BA thesis titledFolklorun Mahiyeti (The Content of Folklore) at Dârulfünûn-Turkology Institute in 1927 under the directorship of literary critic Fuad Köprülü. Raife Hakkı used folklor, the English cognate in her title, not the Arabic halkiyât, and dwelled on the contemporary sources of the time that appeared in English, French, and German.

On the one hand, the Turkish state facilitated the development of folklore knowledge under its institutions. In 1920 The Turkish Great National Assembly founded the Hars Dairesi (The Bureau of Culture) under the Ministry of Education. The first head of the Bureau, Hamid Zübeyr Koşay (1897–1984) collected folklore materials with schoolteachers and students. Furthermore, Hars Dairesi organized archeological excavations, whereby researchers displayed archeological findings along with ethnographic material at the Ethnography Museum (Artun 2017). Folklorists collecting folklore materials from the field was done in the spirit of salvage ethnography. In the end, they communicated folklore knowledge for a larger, diverse audience through their publications and displays they organized at the Ethnography Museum. Hamid Zübeyr Koşay became active again in the post-1950s folklore scene.

Folklore knowledge in this era also flourished in folklore associations and learned societies. In 1927, several nationalist intellectuals joined the Anadolu Folklor Derneği (Anatolian Folklore Society), which was founded by sociologist Ziyaeddin Fahri (Fındıkoğlu). The association led many field trips in Anatolia and collected folklore, this time, under the name Türk Halk Bilgisi Derneği (Turkish Folklore Society) in 1928 (Birkalan 1995). Its journal Halk Bilgisi Haberleri (Folklore News) published, since 1929, a total of 124 issues presenting field-collected folklore materials. Working with the EminönüHalk Evi (in the singular, Halk Evi; plural, Halk Evleri (People’s Houses), the cultural organs of the ruling party in the single-party regime, they aimed to put folklore research into a methodological track (Turan-Karabulut 2013). More importantly, coming from literature, philosophy, and sociology, contributing authors wrote opinion pieces on the definition and meaning of folklore that continued to shape the cultural background of Turkish nationalism. The Türk Dili Derneği (Turkish Language Association) shows the embeddedness of knowledge milieus and the interaction between the state institutions and learned societies. The nationalist ideologues, linguists, and historians (Kasımoğlu 2018, 29) collaborated for research and teaching, produced folklore knowledge, and extended their networks and activities to other associations.8 Furthermore, several other learned societies, particularly the Türk Ocakları (Turkish Hearths), which opened in 1912, became the centers of nationalism, using Turkish culture to promote its aims (Üstel 2004).

The Turkish State continued to take active roles in folklore research in the 1930s-1940s as it promoted the Halk Evleri and Köy Enstitüleri (Village Institutes) as centers to generate and disseminate practical knowledge for the peasants. The Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi/CHP (Republican People’s Party/RPP), critical of the Ottomans neglecting the ordinary people, openedHalk Evleri as their semi-official cultural organs in 1932 and the Köy Enstitüleri in 1940 although experimental studies started in 1937. The elite wanted “to modernize the social relations, to bring an end to poverty and ignorance among the peasants, to create peasant intellectuals, to increase agricultural productivity, and to help spread the Kemalist Revolution in the countryside” (Karaömerlioğlu 1998, 47). The Halk Evleri took important roles to achieve this aim. Similar to the Narodny Dom/Народный дом (People’s Houses) in Russia that also became popular in Britain in the 19th century, Halk Evleri offered a wide-spread, practical adult education in 14 cities with 478 specialization units. They offered courses on language, history, village studies, and technique (Karpat 1963). As such, the Halk Evleri was central to folklore research: between 1938-1947, Pertev Naili Boratav and his assistants at the Ankara University collaborated with Halk Evleri for collecting folklore. While I interpret this collaboration to have blurring effects on academic and non-academic boundaries, Boratav identified it as “meaningful activities for folklore research” (Boratav 1991 [1939]; op cit. in Birkalan 1995).

An Important Turn in the Production of Folklore Knowledge: Pertev Naili Boratav and Academization of Folklore

Although the disciplinary history does not often narrate the academizing story of folklore and ethnography at the Dârulfunûn, folklore’s career at Ankara University is well-known, at least by now (Birkalan 1995, 2001; Çetik 1998, 2019; Öztürkmen 2005). After many years of collecting and teaching folklore classes within the contours of oral literature, Pertev Naili Boratav finally established the Türk Halk Edebiyatı ve Folkloru Kürsüsü (The Department of Turkish Folk Literature and Folklore) at Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi/ DTCF (Faculty of Language and History-Geography) Ankara University in 1947 (Birkalan 1995, 2001; Boratav 1982, 88).

In the 1930s and the 1940s, the globally peaking nationalist paradigm also accelerated in Turkey and took strong footholds at the university. Several scholars at the DTCF became victims of escalating racist and nationalist ideologies and endured long trials. Among others, folklorist Pertev Naili Boratav became a target of communist hysteria, which interrupted folklore’s career at the academe, which started and ended in 1947–48 academic-year.

As the Turkish state cut department funding, Boratav left Turkey. He continued his work in folklore from France and liaised his scholarship to an international audience. İlhan Başgöz, Boratav’s assistant at the time, first started to work as a high-school teacher after he left the department. After two years, he was dismissed from this job and had to spend two years in prison. However, after spending eight months in jail, he became free in 1953. In 1960, with a Ford Scholarship, he moved to the USA. Teaching at Indiana University, he became one of the most important authorities of Turkish folklore.

With the departure of these scholars, academic folklore knowledge experienced an essential brain-drain and went into a long silence. Following the closing of the department, folklore became a part of curricula between different departments. Metin And and Özdemir Nutku at the Department of Theater at Ankara University offered courses on folk theater and other performative folklore genres. In the following years, others wanted that folklore finds a suitable home at this university. Folklore’s swing between Turkish literature and ethnology created academic and personal misunderstandings and led to disciplinary chaos in the following years (Gedik, Özmen, and Birkalan-Gedik 2020). The Department of Ethnology at the Ankara University became a new home of folklore with courses on folk games, folk religion, and folk belief (Erdentuğ, A. 1998, Erdentuğ N. 1982; Birkalan-Gedik 2018, 2019a, b). This constellation is likened to the disciplinary formation of ethnology in German-speaking countries. Sedat Veyis Örnek, an offspring of the DTCF, returned with a doctorate in religious studies at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (University of Tübingen). He (re)joined the Ethnology Department in 1961 (Erdentuğ N. 1982) and taught folklore courses. Nonetheless, folklore had to wait until 1980, when it cherished a short autonomy under the leadership of Örnek, who passed away, sadly, shortly after the re-launching of the department.

At Ankara University, Boratav and his team published meticulously collected field material with a grounded analysis. Deposited to a folklore archive at the department (Boratav 1942), this type of academic, scientific folklore knowledge formed the core of folklore research in Turkey in the 1930s and 1940s. Boratav’s view of folklore went beyond the national impulses, as he approached folklore from a more humanist angle. Boratav offered thorough theoretical perspectives for analysis for the first time, even before some of the theoretical frameworks, for example, the performance approach, became well-known in European and US folklore traditions.9 I would also argue that Boratav said farewell to folklore canon and canonical explanations that dominated the folklore studies up to this period (Birkalan 2001, 1995). As we have seen, these efforts meant salvaging specific genres before they disappeared and presented a rudimentary, philological understanding of folklore.

Boratav’s understanding of folklore was collaborative and encompassed several dimensions, likening to what Marleen Metslaid characterizes as the “co-production” of knowledge in the 1920s and 1930s Estonia (2018). Working with his students and assistants, Boratav stood as an exception in the history of folklore in Turkey: collecting folklore materials with solid methodology, followed by a thorough, critical analysis and vital theoretical perspectives. Thus, folklore knowledge alla Boratav presented a novel approach, anthropological and progressive versus philological rudimentary. In a way, it created a disciplinary tension that not only put the earlier work on folklore into question but also the folklore research and publication that appeared in the years to follow.19 This was a modus novum for folklore practice—an effective combination of folklore as knowledge and folklore as science.

After folklore ceased to exist at the university, the Turkish state took charge of folklore research. In addition to the foundation of a national folklore archive, which I will attend in the following pages, several folk-dance groups and culture-tourism-related associations came into existence. Scholars came together and published different folklore journals. Numerous bureaucrats, folklorists, and other intellectuals (not necessarily folklorists) kept a strong network among each other. Throughout time translations and collection-related publications appeared in a variety of knowledge formats. Besides, student folklore associations at the universities represented new knowledge formats for a general folklore audience. These activities blurred the inside-outside academe categories even more. From the perspective of the history of knowledge, I argue that folklore scholars shifted attention from “studying” folklore to “performing” or “show-casing” it.

Correspondingly, these developments irradiate that folklore knowledge in Turkey carried different notions on folk, folklore, and folk culture under different social and political contexts. In the single-party era, roughly from the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, until the multi-party period that started with the 1950 elections, the folk symbolized the nation and people, or better, the villagers, köylü (Birkalan 2001). The 1950s understanding of folklore knowledge, which exhibited close ties to the economic and political contexts of the time, had a different twist on the term folk to serve the populist aims of the new party. The “folk” became anybody. As a colleague jokingly said, “by opening folklore to the public, folklore was opened to anybody.” In the new folklore milieu, folk was not necessarily the producers of folklore. Folk was an integral part of the audience for whom they show-cased the folklore knowledge. Tourists, folk-dancers, those who were involved in the folklore collection activities in the field formed different parts of the concept of the “folk.”

Political Contexts and Knowledge Milieus in Turkey: The 1950s-1980s

The political contexts of the time can shed light on the direction that folklore knowledge took in the 1950s. The Turkish State had a single party rule until 1946 when Democrat Party emerged from the Republican People’s Party. By the 1960s, the ubiquitous state folklore scholarship created, what I would call, a “consumer-oriented” folklore milieu amid neo-liberal policies. Primarily, nationalism’s effects on folklore never faded away. Moreover, the “Left-Wing” revolutionists and “Right-Wing” nationalists, especially in the 1970s, debated and even fought the meanings and popular usages of folklore in everyday life. Both sides equally claimed the term “national culture,” but under different vocabularies, and sided with the folk in their unique ways.

Within the larger framework of the Cold-War in global politics, the 1950s in Turkey mark the transition to the multi-party regime. This meant an intense criticism for the Republican People’s Party and its cultural organs, Halk Evleri and Köy Enstitütüleri from the populist Demokrat Parti (Democrat Party), which was established in 1946 and came to power in the 1950 elections, illustrates the changing political and economic paradigms under liberalism. Democrat Party, strongly and relentlessly attacking, closed the Köy Enstitütüleri in 1947 (Karaömerlioğlu 1998, 68). The Democrat Party continued to criticize the Halk Evleri and argued that they and their associates publicized communist ideas. Interestingly, it was, more or less the same discourse that was used against Boratav and his colleagues. Both Köy Enstitütüleri and Halk Evleri were the two critical cultural-economic institutions of the single-party rule. As Karaömerlioğlu wrote, most leftist-oriented Kemalists considered the Köy Enstitütüleri as the embodiment of Kemalist peasantism. On the other hand, the right-wing politicians and intellectuals condemned the Köy Enstitütüleri and used them for their political ambitions and to promote an anti-communist hysteria (1998, 48). When all efforts to close the People Houses failed, the Democrat Party found a “solution” to end the activities of the People’s Houses. They confiscated all the buildings that belonged to the Halk Evleri. Their properties were handed over to the Democrat Party. In this way, the ruling party put an obstacle to the functioning of Halk Evleri without having to close them down in 1951 (Akyol 1996).

These arguments are important to position the folk according to two different discourses. The politicians who founded the Democrat Party employed populist approaches to the long-debated group folk and wanted to claim it as a useful tool for political leverage. More than most, the party leaders felt threatened by the Köy Enstitütüleri because “the big landowners until recently occupied a very powerful place in the ruling bloc” (Karaömerlioğlu 1998, 69). The competing ideologies between the above political parties illustrate that the concept of folk always remained central to the idea of the nation in the new Republic, whether it was seen as a means for promoting the ideologies of the “Left” or the “Right.”

As we have seen, Boratav and his students collaboratively worked and collected folklore materials with the cadres at the Halk Evleri. What was different, then, about that folklore knowledge? The answer might the changing ideological and political perspectives. The 1950s brought about a consolidation of claims on folklore, mostly by the right-wing who emphasized populistic, market-oriented, and liberal politics and catered their understanding of folklore to a heterogeneous group of people. In the following pages, I will detail my argument through two cases: Case of theMilli Folklor Enstitüsü (National Folklore Institute) and Türk Folklor Araştırmaları (Turkish Folklore Research).

A New Site of Folklore Knowledge: Milli Folklor Enstitüsü (The National Folklore Institute)

Whether at the university or outside, folklore knowledge is formed and mediated concerning a society. The folklore associations are good examples of this anchoring (Schürch, Eggmann & Risi 2010; Eggmann 2013a, c). After the closing of the Folklore and Folk Literature Department at Ankara University in 1948, Halk Evleri in 1951, and the Village Institutes in 1954, folklore research and teaching became extremely limited. I had asked the question as to why folklorists in Turkey did not correctly react to the case of Boratav (and other professors at the Ankara University). I had also asked about the reasons why the scholars remaining at the universities did not restore folklore at the academe but chose to take folklore outside the university whereby folklore associations and journals continued, albeit in different formats, produced folklore knowledge. This stays not only as a disciplinary but also ethical question.

Certain scholars at the Türk Halk Bilgisi Derneği (Turkish Folklore Society) was active in the first years of the Republic in folklore activities, enthusiastically supported the establishment of the Milli Folklor Enstitüsü. A group of folklore scholars, who became critical personages, in cultural politics in the country, revived Türk Halk Bilgisi Derneği in 1946. As Öztürkmen underlined, even though the association could not be as active as in its first period (1927-1932), it was a center where folklore was not staged butresearched (Öztürkmen 2006, 195, the emphasis is mine). The Türk Halk Bilgisi Derneği organized a meeting in 1955 and agreed to set up a national folklore institute (Baykurt 1976; Karagülle 1999). This group called itself Yüksek Tahsil Gençliği Türk Folklor Enstitüsü Kurma Derneği (Higher Education Youth Association for Establishing Turkish Folklore Institute).11 The members published articles on the necessity of the establishment of a folklore institute under the state in 1964 (Tan 2016, 230). The networking activities of the association gave way to the establishment of Milli Folklor Enstitüsü in 1966 to reconsolidate folklore knowledge under the auspices of the Turkish State’s Ministry of Education. Notably, the Undersecretary of Ministry of Education Adnan Ötüken and the head of the Eski Eserler ve Müzeler Genel Müdürlüğü (General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums) Mehmet Önder became influential in the establishment of the Institute, which also included some academic folklorists, who took dual roles outside the academe.

The institute members were ambitious. For example, they aimed to bring the Turkish and Turkic world together under the popular cartographic praxis of folklore atlases. They concentrated on publishing through other knowledge formats as well. These included folklore handbooks, encyclopedias, monographs, bibliographies, sound discs, and films. Some of the publication and presentation formats were already in use in various folklore traditions yet not in folklore scholarship in Turkey. For instance, broadly speaking, folklore atlases correspond to this category as they materialized and visualized the historic-geographic method. The new knowledge process also envisioned an array of mediality of knowledge: organizing national and international conferences; collecting folklore in the field (the first field trip taking place in 1967); setting up open-air museums for displaying the material forms of culture, establishing a national folklore library, and publishing an academic, international folklore journal. Furthermore, scholars wanted to propagate folklore knowledge to the high schools and higher institutes and the teacher’s schools for supporting national education; and provide scholarship for the study of folklore (Tan 2016, 231–232).

The Institute’s agenda construed that the new folklore scholars wanted to remain contemporaneous in the international arena of folklore scholarship as they aimed to put already circulated ideas in dialogue with the folklore scholarship in Turkey. In that respect, the organization envisioned itself as a sole expert organ to control folklore knowledge. The scholars hoped to be safeguarding an assumed authenticity of folklore materials when they are staged or displayed. These developments are not surprising at all, as several parallels, such as the formation of national folklore institutes in international folklore scholarship already existed. While folklore atlases have fashioned themselves at the turn of the twentieth century as a means to “measuring culture” (Schmoll 2009), the ideas of creating such atlases were just making their way into Turkey in the 1950s and 1960s.

Karagülle details how the Milli Folklor Enstitüsü appeared (1999, 24–25). She underlines that a large, heterogeneous group of scholars, including critics of Turkish literature Cahit Öztelli and material culture specialist Mehmet Önder, requested the establishment of a national folklore institute incessantly. Both scholars, who also held their roles as cultural elites, urged the state bureaucrats to centralize and methodize folklore activities. They discussed these demands in 1955, at the İstişari Folklor Kongresi (Advisory Folklore Congress) among a large group of scholars and intellectuals who were active both in the cultural and political scene (Karagülle 1999). These events lead to the establishment of the institute which took place after negotiations.

After the institute became annexed to the Ministry of Culture (currently called Ministry of Culture and Tourism), it functioned under the name of Milli Folklor Araştırma Dairesi/MİFAD (The Bureau of National Folklore Research) (1973), Halk Kültürü Araştırma Dairesi (Bureau of Folk Culture Research) (1989), andHalk Kültürlerini Araştırma ve Geliştirme Genel Müdürlüğü/ HAGEM (The General Directorate of Researching and Developing Folk Cultures) (1991) (Kasımoğlu 2018, 34). These name changes, on the one hand, signaled how scholars involved reckoned the scope of folklore. On the other hand, positioning the Institute under different units and with statuses meant to overcome bureaucratic difficulties related to state-funding. After the 1970s, folklore became a topic for academic study, particularly at Ankara University. In this period, the Institute maintained tighter relations and facilitated more academic collaborations and was handed over to the Ministry of Culture, which was established in 1971 (Tan 2016, 234).

With this name change, scholars favored the term “folk culture” as they thought it conveyed what they would have otherwise called folklore. By using the term “folk culture” and only evoking “folklore,” they kept a distance from “folk- dancing,” a term which was used by folk-dance groups, thus, narrowing the scope of folklore only to a specific genre. As Öztürkmen already showed (1997, 2003), the term folklore had limited usage. Starting with the 1950s, it referred to “dancing folklore” ( folklor oynamak) among the emergent folk-dance associations and groups. Nail Tan, one of the former directors of the National Folklore Institute, also mentions that folklor meant folk-dancing, and this made the job of the institute a little difficult (Tan 2016, 233). Interestingly, among the laypeople, when pronounced as “folklör” it meant folk-dancing; pronunciation as “folklor” (mind the /-ö/ versus /-o/) meant the name of our discipline. Besides, by opting for folk culture instead of folklore, the founders privileged folk culture, a term that also included ethnography. Konrad Kuhn speaks of a similar case in a Swiss example, whereby folklore scholars saw “folk culture” as a “resource” between scientific and public implications (Kuhn 2016). For the Turkish case, “folk culture” referred to a larger corpus of genres other than folk-dancing. It also spoke to the aims of the group of folklorists, who wanted to research the living aspects of folklore and connected it with the term “ethnography.” At the same time, the cohort of experts at the association distinguished themselves from folk-dance groups, who were amateur folklorists. Otherwise, earlier, “folklore” in the title meant for a focus on the oral or intangible aspects of the “national culture” while “ethnography” referred to material culture.

In my view, resurrecting folklore studies in academia could have been another and equally effective possibility for the future of folklore. We do not have much-published research on the dynamics between the remaining folklorists at the academe and those who introduced non-academic tracks. But these scholars approaching the state illustrates not only the new scope and function of folklore, whereby they envisioned a new public to which they can cater the new folklore knowledge, but also how they endowed folklore with economic and political power. “Catering folklore” here meant out-reaching, marketization, popularization, and exhibiting cultures. The term public may have different connotations in different political, cultural-historical settings, as the public engagement of professional folklorists and amateur researchers may display different national and political implications. Folklore’s public in Turkey included teachers, folklorists, literary critics, and material culture specialists, expanding the porosities among different publics even more.

The linguistic and political implications can complicate these terms and their boundaries. The difficulty can be partly due to the meanings that “public” folklore takes in different national contexts. As Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett reminded, one cannot translate “public folklore” as “ öffentliche Folklore” in German because it sounds awkward (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 2000, 1–2). She communicates that a wide variety of social and cultural concerns and commercial popularization of folklore might be at stake. Particularly, she is concerned about how the Nazi ideology exploited folklore for its cultural-political aspirations—a völkisch past.

Similarly, we cannot translate “public folklore” as “ kamusal folklor” in Turkish because it sounds awkward, too. The word for the public is kamu in Turkish, and, interestingly, the establishment of the National Folklore Institute developed under public administration, which we can broadly define as the public-sector. The political relations, not necessarily the ones Kirshenblatt-Gimblett alludes to, are also at stake. Like what Kirshenblatt-Gimblett observes (2000), the Turkish language presents no terms that would adequately translate “public folklore.” Folklorists in Turkey do not speak of “kamusal folklore”–what would have been the mirror translation of “public folklore.” Instead, there is a growing interest in “applied folklore” among folklorists in Turkey, whereby the term “uygulamalı halkbilim” (applied folklore) emerged as a part of the on-going discourse in cultural heritage since the 2000s, when books on the topic started to appear (Oğuz et al. 2014, 2019).12 The term “uygulamalı folklor” (applied folklore), can blur the distinction of aims and ends between public and applied variants. Besides, although folklorists have been in the public for a long time in Turkey, “ uygulamalı folklor” became a part of folkloristic vocabulary only by the 2000s, due to the involvement of folklorists and ethnologists in the field of intangible heritage.

The term “devlet folklorcuları” (state folklorists) may refer to folklorists who work under the Turkish state, for instance, taking jobs at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and in their sub-organs. They serve to folklore research either in the collecting, presentation, or preservation activities. In that sense, the term “state folklorist” comes closer to the generally accepted notion of a “public sector folklorist” in the context of US folklore who may work at the local, state, or national governments (Hansen 2020). But the state folklore in Turkey is different from “public folklore,” in the USA. Furthermore, while in the USA, funding from the public sector will limit the scope of what a folklorist can accomplish; this may not be the case for Turkey, as the folklorists working in state folklore institutions act as contractors of the state’s vision of what folklore and folklore knowledge is. This type of work serves the aims of the state, who takes political economy as a basis for folklore and folk culture.

A New Format of Folklore Knowledge: Türk Folklor Araştırmaları (Turkish Folklore Research)

Folklore experts can take important roles in communicating a specific type of folklore knowledge to the public through different knowledge formats. Folklore journals, encyclopedias, and handbooks particularly stand out culturally and politically mediated formats (Fenske 2011, 2010 (Fenske and Bendix 2009; Green 2010, Dreischner, 2009). The texts and para-texts are trackable in the case of folklore journals in Turkey, which started publishing after the 1950s, as the Turkish State landed generous support for folklore publications.

For example, in 1956, during the Museum Week on 6–14 October, the Türk Etnografya Dergisi (Turkish Journal of Ethnography) published its first issue, under the support of the Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Eski Eserler ve Müzeler Genel Müdürlüğü (Ministry of Education the Office of Antiquities and Directorate of Museums) which played a vital role in the establishment of the National Folklore Institute.13 Other comparable journals in folklore research include Türk Kültürü (Turkish Culture), the journal of Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü (Turkish Culture Research Institute), starting its publication in 1962. Other journals that lasted a landmark in folklore publishing is the Folklor Postası (Folklore Post), which Kemal Akça and İhsan Hınçer published between 1944–1946. Folklorist İbrahim Aslanoğlu started a journal in 1973 in Sivas, Sivas Folkloru (Folklore of Sivas), which published only three issues. Aslanoğlu continued its publication in Istanbul between 1979–1987 in 7 volumes as a yearbook called Türk Folkloru (Turkish Folklore).

In addition to the regional journals which presented folklore materials from different regions, another journal that affords comparison is Boğaziçi University’s journal Folklora Doğru (Towards Folklore). In 1969, Türk Folklor Kulübü Basın-Yayın Komisyonu (Turkish Folklore Club Press Release Commission) of the Robert College started publishing the and motivated other university publications on folklore. In 1973 OTDÜ Halkbilimi Topluluğu (Middle East Technical University Folklore Association started its journal.14 However, unlike the protagonists of Folklora Doğru, who formed a homogenous group, the protagonists of the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları came from diverse backgrounds:

Not only folklorists but intelligentsia, who were broadly interested in folklore, contributed to the journal. The cadre included authors with formal or informal training in Turkish literature and folklorists and ethnomusicologist with connections to the People’s House and their journals, or with earlier publication experiences. Among the contributors were historians and linguists and award-winning novelists, short story writers, ethnologists, Turkish literature teachers, and pedagogues. The readers of the journal came from broader areas such as schoolteachers and local literati and bureaucrats. Some authors published methods for collecting folklore in the field for the teachers (Ataman 1949), making this “new” folklore format available to, for example, the schoolteachers for pedagogical purposes. It was the kernel cadre at this journal who communicated folklore to the state organizations and plead for help for setting up a national institute.

Especially a young generation of scholars worked on folklore journals that appeared in Turkey in the post-1950s (Çevik 2015; Alıç 2016; Albayrak 2012; Atmaca 2015). These studies, however, remain very descriptive and do not necessarily analyze journals’ relation to folklore knowledge and knowledge formats. On the other hand, Regina Bendix reminds us that since the eighteenth century, journals have spread new social, political, and scholarly ideas and that by the nineteenth century, increasingly differentiated between audiences (Bendix 1998 98). She further renunciates that “folklore, linked to emergent nationalism and questions of heritage and preservation, appealed to the specialist as well as to the broader public.” (Bendix 1998, 99). The Türk Folklor Araştırmaları, too, brought together specialists and the broader public and blurred the borders between its audience and contributors. The journal appealed to the specialists, high school teachers, and even novelists as well as to the broader public to enlarge the scope of folklore and present the collections of folklore enthusiasts from different regions in Turkey. Articles in the journal mostly considered the collection and presentation of the material without a thorough analysis but aimed to highlight that certain folklore materials exist in Turkish folklore. Bringing several folklorists under one roof, the Journal was launched to coordinate folklore research activities and to “professionalize” folklore outside the academe. Founders argued that there was no methodologically sound folklore research besides what has been presented in the Halk Bilgisi Haberleri Mecmuası (The Journal of Folklore News), Ülkü (Ideal) published by the Halk Evleri , and Folklor Postası (Folklore Post) (Hınçer 1949). Interestingly, other journals also claimed to “organize folklore research under one roof” or “methodize folklore research through publications” to remain in the publication business.

İhsan Hınçer worked as the founding editor of the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları, who published this journal monthly between 1949–1980. The journal sustained itself through some limited subsidization from the Turkish State and the advertisements that it accepted from private firms. Already in the second issue, the editor underlined that it is the publication of Türk Folklor Derneği (Turkish Folklore Association) (Albayrak 2012), an association that led to the establishment of folklore research under the Turkish State’s organization.

Published through three decades, Türk Folklor Araştırmaları followed a particular form and program of defining, arranging, and standing for folklore knowledge. It became a great depository for a broad collection of folklore genres that went beyond the folklore canon of the time. Also important was that the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları maintained a “newsletter” section that informed its readers under Ayın Olayları (Monthly Events). It communicated important announcements on folklore symposia, seminars, meetings, festivals, and folk-dance contests. Throughout the years, a section on the book reviews and very few translations appeared.

Nail Tan thought that the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları “founded a folklore school on its own” (Tan 1995, 69; my translation). Mostly, it textualized and described folklore forms and offered them for lay and semi-academic, and throughout the years, academic audiences. The publication period of the journal Türk Folklor Araştırmaları covered three decades when there was no folklore department in Turkey, but folklore classes were taught mostly in the Turkish Literature Departments or at the Department of Theater at the Ankara University. In that respect, in the first years, the journal had a readily available cadre related to the Türk Halk Bilgisi Derneği or relied on the expert knowledge that came from these departments. Besides, at least in the earlier years, scholars who wrote at the journals of People’s Houses (1932–1951) also contributed to the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları.

A critical discourse analysis of and meta-texts that the journal published reveals the dynamics of knowledge production in folklore when formally there was no folklore department in Turkey. Published before the “impact factor era,” its editorial board worked selflessly. It presented folklore knowledge parallel to the demand of its audience, who also formed a significant part of its authors. In the end, it popularized and centralized folklore knowledge and folklore genres for a broader audience, changing the direction of folklore from folklore as a scientific endeavor to a popularized understanding of the term.

Having perused a considerable number of articles in the journal, I argue that the scholars treated folklore theory as a concern of academia. The scholarly writing styles of the published articles were reminiscent of essay-writing with minimized footnotes and no bibliographies. In that sense, it is plausible to argue that the journal had contributed to documenting “regional” folklore and presented genres that folklorist previously did not consider in scholarship. The regions from which scholars collected field-materials, included Konya (as the founding editor was from the city), as well as Istanbul, the Taurus Mountains; folk groups included nomads and villagers in Anatolia and those in the Balkans, Central Asia, and Cyprus, also aligning itself with the political conjuncture. The journal also claimed a wholistic view of folklore, expanding its generic scope and making claims on the “Turkish heritage and tradition” (see Gündoğan 2018 for an index of articles).

The Türk Folklor Araştırmaları maintained strong ties to the establishment of the Association for Establishing Turkish Folklore Institute in 1964 (initiated by a handful of university students) and the publication of the journal Folklor (Folklore), and the subsequent establishment of the National Folklore Institute in 1966 under the auspices of Ministry of Education under the leadership of Cahit Öztelli. While in three decades, contributing authors to the journal changed, most of them supported close relations to the bureaucrats and politicians took decisive roles similar to cultural brokers as intermittent between society and the state and interfered how folklore is to be communicated to the larger public, making use cultural and economy-politics of the state and governments.

The Milli Folklor Enstitüsü and the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları worked towards expanding the generic scope of folklore, as they introduced non-canonized, material culture genres such as folk costumes and folk art and architecture in their programs. A critical characteristic of the Türk Folklor Araştırmaları was how it employed folklore knowledge concerning genre. Folklore was taken in the broadest sense and referred to as “folk culture”–embracing verbal and material and genres from dance to folk theater. Another turning point was that folk dance and folk music, which had importance in the Turkish Republic’s earlier years (see Ekici 2003; Öztürkmen 2003), came to the folklore picture again. It is important to note that folk dance became a strong competitor for the already recognized, canonical genres, such as hikâye, the folk romance. Likewise, Türk Folklor Araştırmaları showed and encouraged an interest toward other, “minor” folklore genres. The genres presented in the journal included but were not limited to, the canonic, to the so-called major hikâye (epic/romance) and masal (folktale) genres as well as non-canonic “minor” genres, e.g. folk songs, lullabies, folk sports, folk sayings and the like.

Moreover, Milli Folklor Enstitüsü took active roles in the folklore publishing industry and published new knowledge formats, such as bibliographies and annotated bibliographies, and other essential folklore references for researchers. As such, this period not only signaled a shifting focus on folklore genres against the backdrop of discussing what folklore includes but also and what it does. Folklore scholars collected, studied, and presented folklore for diverse publics, such as state-supported festivals and museum organizations. The post-1950s folklore “under the state” became a version of “applied” folklore. I am aware of the connotations of “applied” and “state” folklore in different national settings. Let me suffice to say that the Turkish version of applied folklore is a stumbling block between real politics and disciplinary responsibilities.


The social and political changes after the 1980s brought insurmountable challenges for finding frameworks for studying and meaningfully analyzing folklore forms. Particularly the military coup affected the study of folklore both inside and outside the academe, as the nationalist paradigm in all disciplines become more intact. The Yükseköğretim Kurulu /YÖK (The Higher Education Council), became the central body to oversee the university affairs. It also framed and safeguarded the national(ist) principles especially in the humanities and social sciences. Since the 1980s, some of the few folklore programs, mostly under Turkish Literature, limited themselves to the study of folk literature. They widely understood it as folklore and followed the footprints of nationalistic literary critics. More importantly, scholars, who became active in the non-university folklore activities, supported networks with universities and paved the way for the re-academization of folklore in various university departments in Anatolia. In this way, the academic folklore knowledge counted on the former widespread knowledge of folklore.

Starting with the 1990s, a handful of young researchers with diverse academic backgrounds and research agendas joined the folklore programs in the US. They saw the framework of the US-folklore studies as both novel and desired to understand the complexity of cultures in Turkey and engaged themselves with more modern, emergent forms and performances of “traditional” folklore genres. Returning to Turkey in the late 1990s, they started jobs in history, anthropology, political science, and cultural studies, whereby they actively contributed to “interdisciplining” and “internationalizing” folklore. The 1990s presented further social and political transformations, which became challenges for these folklore scholars. Visual and digital media rose. The state lifted the monopoly on media and allowed the broadcasting of private radio and TV channels. The long state-supported despotic secularism clashed with the hegemonic, state represented Islamic fundamentalism. Fervent debates on feminism, ethnicity, and human rights also presented new possibilities for the study of folklore. The newly established folklore departments at the Turkish universities, on the other hand, for the most part, continued to follow the “nativist” approaches of certain folklorists and took the advantage of 30-years-long out-of-academia folklore knowledge for academic folklore studies.15

I have vivid memories of the 1996 American Folklore Society Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. I participated as a seasoned graduate student at the Indiana University Folklore Institute. I saw the heated debates on folklore’s name and other suggested terminologies. Ilana Harlow in her plenary “What’s in a Name?” questioned the usability of the term folklore within the framework of folklore’s assumed crisis. Regina Bendix called attention to the expanded scope of the discipline and underlined that “Folklore will not do justice to this enlarged task, no matter how many modifiers we add to it” (Bendix 1998, 235). I discussed the case of North American folkloristics with my mentor Henry Glassie. We compared it with the case of folklore studies in Turkey. I remember telling him: “What could be a more useful term than folklore in Turkey? You can play it, dance to it, teach it, and sell it!” alluding to the “performed,” “commercialized,” “marketed” trajectories of folklore knowledge. Now, please read my words more than a Witz. True, folklore in Turkey became useful outside the university. It received high visibility and usability from all kinds of public—tourists and tour leaders, festival organizers, and brokers alike. But precisely because of this reason, folklore scholars faced great challenges teaching folklore at the universities (Çobanoğlu 2001). While folklore studies in the USA experienced a different type of crisis, the 1990s folklore scholarship in Turkey tried to overcome the under-representation of academic folklore and reductionist ideas about folklore being all about folk dances. This was possible via what I would call a “time fuse.” Here I mean a specific type of internationalization, which I can characterize by folklorists turning their eyes to the North American folklore studies. Interestingly, both liberal and conservative folklorists used internationalization strategies effectively.

I do not mean to undermine the activities involved in the folklore scholarship in Turkey. On the other hand, folklorists in Turkey already offered the development of folklore in different historical frameworks and paradigms (Yıldırım 1994, 1985; Çobanoğlu 2001). Celebrating the 100 th year of the first article on folklore in Turkey in 2015, articles appeared in journals Milli Folklore (National Folklore), Folklor/Edebiyat (Folklore/Literature) on this occasion. Scholars evoked again the years-long companionship of nationalism and folklore (Ersoy 2013) that dominated the framework of evaluation of folklore studies. Others dealt with prominent issues such as cultural politics (Ekici 2015), or the problems folklore face in Turkey (Tan 2013, 2014). Besides, the younger generation of folklore students and scholars became attuned to the institutional developments (Tepeköylü 2017) and folklore publishing (Çevik 2015), or practice of folklore in different institutional settings (Çek 2017). Some of them even predicted a destiny for folklore’s future in Turkey (Durmaz 2018). Indeed, the future trajectories of folklore in Turkey can follow different courses as a part of a dynamic society and politics. But these treatments can mean, at best, a celebration of “localist” terms, to borrow the term from Michael Herzfeld (2003).

My paper aimed to situate itself within the global and local political/disciplinary contexts of folklore knowledge. The state-nationalism appeared as the central, non-circumventable framework that folklore historiography in the country exhausted the most. However, contrary to the expectations, the post-1950s folkloristics did not deal with coming to terms with a nationalist past. The folklore knowledge grew ad hoc in academic and non-academic settings, owing to a great deal to their entangled histories at Ankara University. While nationalism has been the primary framework that framed folklore studies, we need a perspective change to make sense of the developments after the 1950s in Turkey. In my paper, I tried to examine various aspects of folklore knowledge, which proved itself as a promising effort. A thorough discussion on folklore in Turkey should address knowledge sites, formats, and milieus in the past. My first plea is that folklorists in Turkey move away from the already exhausted frameworks and attempt to consider the multifaceted aspects of folklore knowledge and its diverse publics, which can open new perspectives. Wolfgang Kaschuba (2013) reminds us that folklore knowledge is bounded with “turns” and “tunes,” referring to the historical character of folklore knowledge. A perspective that treats folklore knowledge in Turkey in its historicity is both desired and necessary. Such de-centering will be a stepstone in the history of folklore scholarship in Turkey.


1 I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Konrad Kuhn and Magdalena Puchberger for organizing the panel at the SIEF 14th Congress in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 2019 and for taking the initiative for publishing our papers. I also thank two anonymous reviewers and the Cultural Analysis editorial team for their thoughtful comments and efforts towards improving my manuscript. [ Return to the article ]

2 The case of folklore in Turkey in the post-1950s needs to be situated in a greater, comparative, and international frameworks that would, for example, include the impact of the Cold War, the new right-wing, UNESCO, neo-liberalism, and the Bologna process that left, and continues to leave long-lasting imprints on ethnological disciplines in the world. Aware of the impact of these and other landmarking events and initiatives, I could only discuss them selectively. [ Return to the article ]

3 The way that certain folklorists handled notion of “history of knowledge” creates an important nuance in these works that goes along with the criticism that German cultural anthropologist Stefan Beck offered on the “older” style of thought. Beck argued that it is as responsible for the scientific vision of the discipline as for the partial blindness towards the social phenomena that seemingly ignored the theories of knowledge and sociology of knowledge (Beck 1997). [ Return to the article ]

4 Literary folklorist Fuad Köprülü, besides being a political leader, bureaucrat, and cultural broker, was a member of the Turkology Institute of the Istanbul University, which was opened in 1924. Köprülü became an authority, especially in folk literature and a leading nationalist in the 1930s. Ziya Gökalp, a Kurd himself from Diyarbakır, came to be known as the “father of Turkish nationalism.” Gökalp also wrote many articles on methods of collecting folktales, but also more on theoretical side of folklore, for example, tackling with concepts such as folk, culture, and civilization. [ Return to the article ]

5 Dârülfünûn , the older name for Istanbul University, means “the house of sciences.” It was an important institution in the Ottoman Empire. After the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Atatürk implemented a university reform in 1933. Important to note is that German and Jewish scholars who fled from the Nazi regime found refuge in Turkey and started teaching at the Istanbul University. With the establishment of the Faculty of Language and History-Geography in Ankara, German and Jewish scholars, overall, contributed to the boosting of academic and scientific knowledge in Turkey. [ Return to the article ]

6 Having received his education in Turkish literature at Istanbul University, Gyula Mészáros returned to Hungary and studied with Ármin Vámbery. He came back to Istanbul and became the head of the Hungarian Language and Literature Department. He kept warm relations with the Turkish nationalist of that time, forming sympathetic ideologies towards Turanism. As a pseudo-historical ideology, it assumed a common origin of all Turkic peoples, namely, Finno-Ugrians, Mongols and Manchu-Tungus, Turanism affected Turkish nationalists at the beginning of the 19th century. It was prominent among certain Turkologist, to whom Mészáros also belonged (see Namal 2014 for more on Mészáros). [ Return to the article ]

7 After his death in 1938, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s body was mummified and temporarily kept in this museum. Fifteen years later, it was transported to the newly built mausoleum of Anıtkabir in Ankara. [ Return to the article ]

8 The nationalist ideologues and intellectual elite, who published articles on nationalism, Turkish literature, and folklore, established the Turkish Language Association during the Second Constitutional Period (1908) These scholars included, among others, Yusuf Akçura, Necip Asım (Yazıksız), Veled Çelebi (İzbudak), Rıza Tevfik (Bölükbaşı), and Agop Boyacıyan who made a reputation in folklore studies. [ Return to the article ]

9 As I write this part about Boratav, I recall my visit to his home in Ivry-sur-Seine in 1994. Pertev Hoca, at that time, told me in detail how he collected minstrel tales, especially from Sabit Müdamî (1914–1968), a well-known folk poet in the Anatolian narrative tradition. Boratav conveyed that during his military service in Kars, a city in eastern Turkey, he had invited Müdamî to tell stories, “in a friendly manner,” as they sipped their tea together. Müdamî told stories, as Boratav wrote Müdamî’s stories in Ottoman-Turkish, which functioned like short-hand because of its Arabic orthography. This was prior to stenographic inventions. Boratav’sHalk Hikâyeleri and Halk Hikâyeciliği (1946) deals with the hikâye tradition in Turkey. The theoretical framework of this work is based on the performance theory, long before the theory came to the US folkloristics. [ Return to the article ]

10 Currently, I am working on a revision on Boratav’s case in the folklore studies in Turkey. More information can will be available in my forthcoming article that revisits the case of Pertev Naili Boratav. [ Return to the article ]

11 Changing its name to Milli Folklor Araştırmaları (National Folklore Research) in 1965, and to Folklor Kurumu (Folklore Institution) in 1972, it conducted activities until 1972, when the General assembly of the association opted for Folklor Araştırmaları Kurumu (Folklore Research Institution) for its name. [ Return to the article ]

12 It is interesting that the discussion on public and applied folklore came to the folklore landscape in Turkey only in the past few decades, although folklore scholars engaged with the public, at least, since at the end of the Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic. Folklorists collaborated with laymen, villagers, and literati, thus blurred, what we call today expert and lay knowledge. Unfortunately, the first work cited here brings together translation of several articles that formed the public folklore debate in the US, without any critical comments on different national contexts. The second book deals with the role of folklore in the larger contexts of globalization but does not problematize the case of public or applied folklore terminologies and their applicability for the Turkish context, either. [ Return to the article ]

13 Between 1956–1997, this journal published, albeit irregularly, twenty issues in the fields of ethnology, folklore, and ethnography under the directorate of Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, and the Prime Ministry’s Culture Office. [ Return to the article ]

14 The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission (American Board) founded Robert College, an English-teaching higher education institution which became Boğaziçi University in 1971. In this year, the name of the folklore club was changed to Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Folklor Kulübü/BÜFK (Boğaziçi University Folklore Club), which published the journal Folklora Doğru. The first 24 issues were published monthly, while the issues between 25–44 were published bi-monthly and the issues between 45–58, tri-monthly. The journal published two issues per year (issues between 59–63). Issues afterwards were published irregularly (see Atmaca 2015). [ Return to the article ]

15 The 2008 American Folklore Society Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky became an effective platform to discuss our individual experiences of studying folklore in the US and its impact in our studies as we returned to Turkey. Our panel, “Between European Ethnology and American Folkloristics: Rethinking New Directions in Turkish Folklore, organized in two sessions, brought valuable experiences of fellow colleagues. [ Return to the article ]

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