[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2018.
The present thesis examines ideological and discursive constructions of physiological,
neurological and psychological diseases in women writers' fiction in Turkish in relation
the nation-building project of Turkey in the twentieth century. While the Turkish
project deployed biopolitics to regulate population, this research has focused on
bodies of exception and their potential to undermine the normative discourse on healthy
bodies of 'ideal citizens'. Taking my cue from Giorgio Agamben's theorization of the
figure of homo sacer and the state of exception, I have explored whether sick bodies
women are situated in the state of exception.
For this research, I have selected texts across the twentieth century - from the Balkan
in 1912 as a significant cornerstone that signalled the fall of the Ottoman Empire
to the end
of the Cold War during which the relationship between citizens' bodies and the state
drastically changed due to three coup detats and violence among civil groups of left
right. Since gender occupied a central role in the heteronormative definitions of
ideal citizens' body should look like and what was expected of it, I have specifically
focused on women writers and their fiction on female characters' illnesses in a number
genres. The analysis provided focuses on Halide Edib's national romances Handan,
Atesten Gomlek (The Shirt of Fire), Mevut Hukum (The Promised Verdict) and Tatarcik;
Kerime Nadir's melodramas Hickirik (Sobbing) and Posta Guvercini (Carrier
Pigeon/Dove); modernist works of the Cold War period Tezer Ozlu's Cocuklugun Soguk
Geceleri (Cold Nights of Childhood) and Sevim Burak's Afrika Dansi (African Dance),
and post-Cold War short stories by Asli Erdogan, Yitik Gozun Boslugunda (In the Void
of a Lost Eye) and Tahta Kuslar (Wooden Birds).
In order to present a detailed portrait of the central place of health in the nation-building
project of Turkey, my first chapter presents a historical analysis of the official
discourse through speeches and publications by the members of the parliament and
prominent health officials of the first half of the century. Here, I argue that the
nation-building project set out to define every individual body as an asset to the
of the nation, thereby gave every citizen a biological responsibility with remarks
need to protect your health in order to be a good citizen'.
My second chapter focuses on Halide Edib Adivar's national romances, approaching her
oeuvre as a bridge that reflects the change in the normative definitions of ideal
is my argument that the change in Adivar's use of illness in her novels is representative
the approach towards illness in the modern Turkish republic with her later works replacing
the sickly heroines with healthy ones. Similarly, in my third chapter I focus on Kerime
Nadir's melodramas and approach her novels as texts where the wounded masculinity
caused by the lost Ottoman Empire is healed and saved by the sacrifice of the heroines.
the heroines devote their life energies to heal and raise the heroes, they gradually
health only to be replaced by their healthy and sturdy daughters or younger companions.
In my final chapter, I focus on modernist works produced during and shortly after
War, and discuss the change in the function of the sick bodies. In these works, writers
embrace the images of sick bodies as tools of resistance to authoritarian regimes.
It is in
this period, the docile bodies of the previous works are charged with resistance and
borders are shattered. With the state applying torture and violence on citizens' bodies,
bodies turn into weapons and become revolutionary.