Reading the History of Childhood in the Interwar Turkey through the Images of Animals

Sunday, January 8, 2017: 9:00 AM
Centennial Ballroom F (Hyatt Regency Denver)
Melis Sulos, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
How can depictions of infant animals reveal the political rhetoric on nationalism and domesticity in children’s literature? Can animal history and the study of human-animal relations help reinterpreting history of childhood and modernity in Middle East?  Analyzing the depictions and the representations of animals, my research focuses on the emergence of a novel discourses perceiving children and pets as creatures to be protected and disciplined in the interwar Turkey. Offering an alternative reading on the representations of pets in the domestic space, I argue that experiences of animals and children -as well as their relationships-, were shaped according to Turkey’s political discourse on modernity and secularization in 1930s. My study looks from a comparative perspective and questions the ways in which Turkish nationalism used a vocabulary of affection and discipline –using children and animals (particularly pets)- in identity construction and nation building. Concentrating on the children’s journal of the Society for the Protection of Children, I analyze different levels of discursive interaction between pets and children that either characterize stray dogs, cats, and street children as being harmful to the nation’s harmony and health, or on the opposite, displaying children and pets as precious little members of the bourgeois families. Working on the dichotomous depictions of infant animals and pets, I scrutinize the ways in which bio-politics functions in children’s literature, and argue that pets and infant animals were used to impose nationalist ideas as well as gender roles in Turkey, in 1920s and 1930s.
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