State of Translation: Turkey in Interlingual relations 0472124137, 9780472124138

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State of Translation: Turkey in Interlingual relations
 0472124137, 9780472124138

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International politics is often conducted in two or more languages. The resulting interlingual relations involve translation, either by interpreters who are inserted into conversations between statesmen, or by bilingual statesmen who negotiate internationally in one language and then legitimize domestically in another. Since no two languages are exactly the same, what is possible to argue in one language may be impossible in another. As a result, political concepts can be significantly reformulated in the translation process. State of Translation examines this phenomenon in the case of how nineteenth-century Ottoman and later Turkish statesmen struggled to reconcile their arguments in external languages (first mostly French, then English) with those in their internal language (Ottoman, later Turkish), and in the process further entangled them. Einar Wigen demonstrates how this process structured social relations between the Ottoman state and its interlocutors, both domestically and internationally, and shaped the dynamics of Turkish relations with Europe. Einar Wigen is Associate Professor of Turkish Studies in the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo.


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Turkey in Interlingual Relations


University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor

Copyright© 2018 by Einar Wigen All rights reserved This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publisher. Published in the United States of America by the University of Michigan Press Manufactured in the United States of America Printed on acid-free paper First published September 2018 A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Wigen, Einar, 1981- author. Title: State of translation : Turkey in interlingual relations / Einar Wigen. Description: Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018. I Series: Configurations: critical studies of world politics I Includes bibliographical references and index. I Identifiers: LCCN 2018021212 (print) I LCCN 2018031569 (ebook) I ISBN 9780472124138 (E-book) I ISBN 9780472130948 (hardback) Subjects: LCSH: Language and international relations-Turkey-History. I DiplomacyLanguage-History. I Turkey-Foreign relations. J Turkish language-Political aspects-History. J BISAC: POLITICAL SCIENCE I International Relations I General. Classification: LCCJz1253.5 (ebook) I LCCJz1253.5 .w54 2018 (print) LC record available at https:/ / Cover: Ambassador Stratford Canning dining with the Kaymakam of Istanbul. Watercolor; anonymous, ca. 1809. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


Foreword vu Acknowledgments


Note on Transliteration and Spelling I


2 • Concepts



3 • Civilization

4 • Empire


5 • Citizenship 6 • Democracy 7 • Teleology 8

Conclusion References Index



131 163 197 229 2 37



The book you hold in your hands is one of the most innovative and pathbreaking books that we have published in the Configurations series to date. Einar Wigen's book is a fascinating expansion of the territory of international studies into the realm of translation: not translation as a metaphor, but translation as the concrete act of rendering something written in one language into another language. While there has been work in conceptual history that looks at how particular notions evolve and change over time, Wigen's focus on what is conserved and what changes when politically important concepts traverse cultural and linguistic boundaries participates in a broader movement to reveal the global connections surrounding and penetrating supposedly "national" histories. Just as comparative political theory looks to identify parallels and exchanges between traditions not easy to see when looking at the world as though it were composed of a grid of hermetically sealed separate societies, Wigen's work invites us to explore the ways that acts of sense-making in the Turkish context responded to and modified the European sources on which Turkish intellectuals drew-and helped to shape the Turkish political context in ways that have lasting effects. What is perhaps most striking about Wigen's book is that it foregrounds a topic that ought to have been more central to international studies all along. If we think of the field at its broadest as dealing with the encounter with difference across boundaries-whether those boundaries are the putatively hard-edged borders of sovereign territorial states, the more flexible and fluid "contact zones" between cul-



tures and civilizations, the regulatory frameworks of global commerce, or something else entirely-then the movement of key conceptual and philosophical notions into alien environments ought to provoke a clear line of research. But the topic has been strikingly understudied. Most intellectual histories are either implicitly bounded by linguistic communities, or else they deal with the emergence of a roughly homogenous intellectual community across multiple languages. Genuinely global intellectual histories are rare, in part because of the sheer weight of the experience in multiple domains required in order to tell such a story in a compelling way. And reception histories, in which the account treats one intellectual community as the recipient of notions imported from another, often run the risk of downplaying or ignoring the agency of the "recipients" of a notion born elsewhere. Looking instead to those who live on the boundary, those who have the unenviable task of figuring out what something means in one context and then rendering some kind of equivalent for it in another context, are from this perspective engaged in "international relations"-the specific variant that Wigen calls "interlingual relations." His may be the first book to explore this terrain, but hopefully it will not be the last. Wigen adopts a thoroughly relational approach to the topic at hand, refusing the easy temptation of defining in advance what notions like "democracy" and "civilization" mean, and then tracking which elements of that meaning do or do not survive the trip from one language to another. He also rejects the approach (common in some forms of conceptual history) that seeks to abstract an essence from a pattern of word use, and thus inductively arrive at a stable meaning for a concept based on the inferred substrate from which particular usages derive. Instead, for Wigen, a concept just is the way that it is used, nothing less and certainly nothing more. This means that translation cannot possibly be the conservation or transportation of meaning from one context to another, but has to instead involve producing what Wittgenstein might have called a "family resemblance" between how terms are used in different contexts. In so doing, the translator is affected by a variety of contingent factors and navigating, as it were, a constitutively ambiguous sea-particularly when the notion being translated is a complex one imbued with a rich history of its own, and one with important implications for po-

Foreword • ix

litical and social life. In this way, translating "democracy" or "civilization" from various European languages into Turkish is inextricably wrapped up with other aspects of the relations between the Ottoman Empire and the state of Turkey on one hand, and those European countries on the other: as the European countries urge "democracy" and speak of "civilization," it matters a great deal what sense is made of those notions in Turkish. The question here is not whether the translators "got it right," but more what sense the process of translation made and makes in the context of ongoing engagement. As a result, Wigen does not and cannot provide anything like a comprehensive theory of interlingual relations. Instead, he provides a thoroughly configurational explanation of how particular outcomes came about. It is in the very character of this kind of approach not to be able to specify actors, sites, and controversies in advance; instead, they emerge from the careful effort to trace just how sense was made at particular junctures. We are thus presented with a detailed narrative that discloses the twists and turns that lead to the kinds of understandings of these key political terms operative today in Turkey. This might be thought of as a kind of inventory of resources that could be drawn on in contemporary political debates, but personally I prefer to think of it as a prelude to future structured discussions. Recognizing that "translation" is no automated technical process, but a highly contingent and contextual one, shows us both the similarities and the differences that persist in discussions about the key commonplaces that form our common political vocabulary. Patrick Thaddeus Jackson Series Editor, Configurations


I have been grappling with the subject matter of this book since I first spent a year at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) in 2005. At NUPI I encountered Iver B. Neumann, whom I now count as my friend and mentor. Iver has guided my theoretical pursuits and helped me generously ever since. In the autumn of 2005, I started attending Bernt Brendemoen's Turkish classes at the University of Oslo with the vague idea of writing a work on Turkish conceptual history inspired by Neumann's books, Russia and the Idea of Europe (1996) and Uses of the Other (1999). Brendemoen's friendship, patience, and generosity in teaching Ottoman and Turkish language and helping me with sources have been invaluable. Of equal importance, his love for all things Turkish is contagious. Both Neumann and Brendemoen have my heartfelt gratitude. Helge Jordheim helped provide an academic home for me as a doctoral fellow at the KULTRANS research project from 2010 to 2014 and became the third supervisor of my dissertation. Helge has since become one of my closest colleagues, and his friendship, patience, and enthusiasm are warmly appreciated. While preparing this manuscript, I also incurred a number of intellectual debts to teachers and student interlocutors in Turkey, Norway, and the United Kingdom. I thank the excellent teachers and students at the Ataturk Institute of Modern Turkish History at Istanbul's Bogazi