International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

A Chronology of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Political Contexts and Disciplinary Movements

Hande Birkalan‑Gedik

Institut für Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main

To cite this article

Birkalan–Gedik, Hande, 2019. “A Chronology of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Political Contexts and Disciplinary Movements”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

URL BEROSE: article1792.html

Published as part of the research theme “Anthropological Horizons, Histories of Ethnology and Folklore in Turkey”, directed by Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Institut für Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie, Frankfurt am Main) and Abdurrahim Ozmen (Dicle Üniversitesi, Diyarbakir)

The following periodization of historical events is intended to help to contextualize the history of anthropology in Turkey in relation to the political contexts and corresponding disciplinary developments.

1839-1876: Decree of Reform – Tanzimat. Routes, Sites, and Sources of Ottoman Anthropology


Reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II starts. End of Tanzimat – Reformation. Ottoman evolutionism coincides with the First Constitutional period

Emergent social Darwinism in a Muslim empire Translations on “science,” impact of materialism

1908: Young Turk Revolution – II. Constitutional period Shift in Political Thought: Westernism, Ottomanism and Turkism

1908 – 1910

Sociological paradigms – Durkheim and Le Play Nationalism

1912 – 1913

Balkan Wars: Ottoman Empire loses a great deal of the Balkans

1914 – 1918

The First World War

1919 – 1923

Turkish War of Independence

1914 – 1918

Teaching of Turkish folklore and ethnography at the Dār ül fünūn – Faculty of Literature by Gyula Mészáros

1923 – 1940: Early Republican Period. The Anthropological Landscape and Nation-Building in Turkey

1923 – 1933

Height of the racist paradigm and nationalist thought which determined anthropological research

1933 – 1940

Three important history congresses that shaped Turkish anthropology, arguing for the superiority of the “Turkish race”

Post 1945

Racist paradigm in decline, but the national paradigm still in effect

1940 – 1950

Opening of the ethnological branch within the Chair of Anthropology at Ankara University and departure from racial paradigm towards fieldwork

Emergent British functionalist school/ethnographic approaches in anthropology. Rise of village ethnographies in Anatolia

Nationalism still in effect

Monographic ethnological tradition at Ankara University. Highlighted anthropological focus on Turkish villages

Anthropology-ethnology understood in the sense of continental anthropology, i.e. “European ethnology” emerges from the department of physical anthropology at Ankara University

Intersecting fields of anthropology and sociology. Village monographs

1947 – 1948

Opening and the closing of the Folklore Department, launched by Pertev Naili Boratav at Ankara University


Transition to the multi-party system

Impact of American anthropology

US and other foreign anthropologists doing fieldwork in Turkey

1960s – 1980s

Opening of anthropology departments, Istanbul University (1968),
Hacettepe University (1971).

Opening of folklore departments, Hacettepe University (1982).

Folklore swinging between left-wing ‘revolutionaries’ and right-wing conservatives

12 September 1980

Military coup of 1980 and strengthening of neo-liberal policies strongly felt in academia. Establishment of Higher Education Council (Yükseköğretim Kurulu) in 1981 to oversee universities affairs, which influenced social science and its research throughout Turkey

Folklore reintroduced at Ankara University


Coming of the ‘returned folklorists’ from the USA

Impact of US folkoristics

Emergence of gender studies and anthropological and sociological courses on gender


Opening of the Turkish Folklore Department at Gazi Universitesi – Ankara in 2004

Universities under increasing neo-liberal politics, impact of Bologna Process, Erasmus, Erasmus +, UNESCO, intangible cultural heritage

Opening of more physical anthropology programmes within anthropology departments


Attempted coup, and the departure of several social scientists from Turkey

Quo vadis, anthropology?