Turkish society and the Turkish polity. In Turkey, where there is a strong state tradi-tion, all interest groups, including the military, try to impose on the entire citizenrytheir specific understandings of modernity, social identities, and political authority.The controversy over secularism is most evident in the educational system. Becauseschools engage a captive audience, carry the weight of official approval, and imposespecific interpretations on key social issues, they are widely perceived as definingnational experience for schoolchildren. It is this systematic intervention into children’ssubjectivities that has spurred the military to participate actively in shaping the curric-ulum at the same time that it attempts to forge a consensual understanding of stateand society.
After all, as the sociologist Charles Tilly has pointed out, a major activityof a state is war-making, but conscription alone does not create soldiers who arewilling to sacrifice themselves for the state.
By examining in detail the curriculum in the secular primary school, I will showhow neither religious nor martial ideals can be understood as centuries-old traditionsand customs; rather, they are constantly reworked within the social, political, andcultural transformations of the country. Since the 1970s and even more so after the1980 coup, the military leaders have most often associated themselves with the right-of-center political spectrum—most notably, the religious sponsors of the “Turkish–Islamic Synthesis” (
Tu¨ rk I ˙slam Sentezi
) ideology. As a result of this alliance, thecountry’s military leadership overtly approved of greater religious instruction in thesecular-track school system. Moreover, together with the right-of-center political par-ties, these military leaders disseminated, through reworked textbooks and pedagogicaldirectives, earlier myths and images to emphasize a particularly visceral collectiverepresentation—“the Turkish soldier, defender of the Muslim faith.” In effect, throughthe new curriculum they appear to have reinstituted the pre-Republican duality of state and faith—the
—as a viable mechanism for political consensus.Yet, other factors show that this is not the case. The consensus over the religiousorientation of the country’s schools does not extend to the shaping of the nationalelite. The highly prestigious military academies, whose graduates have become leadersin the country’s military, financial, and political domains, refuse to admit graduatesof religious-track schools. The admissions criteria of these academies have provokedacrimonious debates about secularism and the role of the military in fashioning thecountry’s political culture and educational policies. My argument here is based bothon written “ministerial” sources (textbooks, programs, circulars) and on data I col-lected during the course of two years of ethnographic research in the school systemof a small town in southern Turkey I will call Yayla, where I conducted fieldwork between 1989 and 1991. My study on the politics of national education shows thatreligious and martial virtues are historically constituted through the school systemand its curriculum. It also highlights the uneasy, complex relationship between thereligious public and the military.
A MASTER NARRATIVE: A NATION OF SOLDIERS
Studies about the pedagogical roles of the Turkish armed forces have confined their scope to how the military teaches literacy and “modern” practices to conscripted sol-diers.
Not enough attention, however, has been given to the various ways in which