Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

A comparative analysis of the evolution of cultural policies and archaeological research in the early Turkish Republic and Pahlavi Iran

Alvise Cecchetti, Leiden University

The fellowship given me by NIT allowed me to stay for the entire month of February in Istanbul and to develop a small project linked to my Research Master’s Thesis on "Cultural Policies and Archaeology in Iran: the Italian Archaeological Missions and a Case Study of Persepolis/Takht-e Jamshid".
The aim of this proposed research is to compare the state narratives and the impact of Nationalism in the development of archaeology in the early Turkish Republic and in Pahlavi Iran. I have somewhat explored the topic during my research MA, where I dealt with the development of nationalism in the Middle East and its consequences on different humanistic disciplines during the early decades of the 20th century, above all, archaeology.
Since one month was not enough to carry out all the work for such a wide research, I thought to narrow down the research scope of the period I was in Istanbul and focus mainly on three points: brainstorm some ideas, produce a secondary literature review on nationalism and archaeology in Turkey and identify possible differences and similarities between the data collected during my thesis with those emerging from new readings.
At NIT I could find a rich library where I could find a rich collection of books and journals related to the study of history and archaeology, which has been really useful to my work. The majority of these sources regarded mainly the history of nationalism and specifically Turkish Nationalism (Dinler, Meskell), the development of Turkish archaeology (Kılıç, Scott-Ergin) and the propagandistic use of archaeology in the 1930s (Özdoğan, Goode). Hence, I proceeded to review some of them and I consequently tried to attempt some comparisons between data emerging from this new material with the ones I previously collected during the writing of my thesis. For this comparison, I focused on three main points: the rise of Nationalism in Iran and Turkey and their specifics, the propagandistic use of archaeology for political and ideological purposes and its consequences on the cultural development of both countries.
I would say this was an important part of my research as I had the chance to understand the impact of ideology on the development of a national discourse, including the development of archaeology in Turkey. Moreover, it made me clear that although in the 1930s, in both Iran and Turkey, the State fostered a similar type of Nationalism and the creation of similar cultural centres devoted to the study of archaeology, cultural heritage and ancient civilizations was aimed to achieve different targets. In Turkey, it was intended to eradicate pejorative Western and Ottoman stereotypes about Turks and equate ancient Turkish civilizations to European ones. On the contrary, in Iran it was aimed to enhance the supposed “Europeanness” of the Iranian people and an implicit superiority towards other Middle Eastern countries.
Finally, I would like to thank both the director of the NIT, Dr. Fokke Gerritsen, and NIT’s secretary, Dr. Aysel Arslan, for their kindness and their precious suggestions throughout the entire duration of my stay at NIT and their genuine will to help me for any question or problem I had during my period in Istanbul, both for my research or for more practical issues. I also want to thank the several friendly PhD candidates or postdoc fellows of ANAMED institute who have been interested in my work and helped me through feedbacks or even with a short chat.