Healing the Nation: Prisoners of War, Medicine and Nationalism in Turkey, 1914-1939

Healing the Nation: Prisoners of War, Medicine and Nationalism in Turkey, 1914-1939

Healing the Nation: Prisoners of War, Medicine and Nationalism in Turkey, 1914-1939

Healing the Nation: Prisoners of War, Medicine and Nationalism in Turkey, 1914-1939

Synopsis

Explores how the Great War influenced the construction of identity and nationalism in the Ottoman Empire. Yucel Yanikdag explores how, during the Great War, Ottoman prisoners of war and military doctors discursively constructed their nation as a community, and at the same time attempted to exclude certain groups from that nation. Those excluded were not always the ethnic or religious Other as might be expected. They frequently included the internal Other in different guises. While theeducated officer prisoners excluded the uncivilised and illiterate peasant from their concept of the nation, doctors used international socio-medicine as the basis for excluding all those - officers, enlisted men, civilians - they deemed to be hereditarily weak.Through the course of this study, Yanikdag looks at broader questions of nationhood. When are nations constructed? Is it when groups of people begin to think of themselves as a nation? What roles do science and medicine, as "rational" fields of inquiry, play in shaping national and cultural identities? What role does Otherness play in the construction of national community?

Excerpt

It was almost noon on 25 June 1922, when a ship named Ümit (Hope) slowly pulled up to the Zeytinburnu port in Istanbul. It was carrying hundreds of Ottoman-Turkish passengers–released prisoners of war–whose long and strange trip had started in a carrier with a Japanese flag from Vladivostok, Russia’s major port on the Sea of Japan. The passengers were Ottoman prisoners of war being repatriated after spending years in captivity in Siberia. Everyone was on deck. Those who hailed from the city or had deployed from there were seeing the capital of the Ottoman Empire, or what remained of it, for the first time since their deployment. In 1914, when the Ottomans entered the Great War, Istanbul was bustling with Ottoman soldiers on their way to the scattered fronts where they would be expected to fight for the empire. Now, eight years later, the city to which they returned was under allied occupation, and had been since the end of the war in November 1918. The city was still crowded with soldiers, but this time the soldiers were from the occupation forces.

The newly released prisoners of war on board the Ümit expected to be greeted by throngs of citizens, gathered to welcome their repatriation to Turkey. However, the passengers would be disappointed. With the exception of a few locals gathered at the port, the returning soldiers were met by the soldiers of the occupation forces. By late afternoon, the passengers had still not been permitted to disembark the ship. Finally, four officers–two Ottoman and two from the occupation forces–boarded the ship. After a ‘general walk around the ship’, one of the Ottoman officers turned to the prisoners and announced that those who lived in or had relatives in Istanbul could disembark in Zeytinburnu, provided that they could give a street address.

Among the prisoners on the ship was a certain Lieutenant Halil, who had . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.