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Faustian bargain: how the academics in Turkey dealt with university purges, 1960s-1980s Kayir, Gül Banu


Academic purges have been a recurrent phenomenon in the political life of the Turkish Republic. This study argues that academics, who are usually seen as primary victims of state persecution, also played important roles as instigators and willing contributors to the purges. This understanding emerges from a close examination of academic removals that took place in Turkey after the 1960 and 1980 military coups. The analysis of the views, discourses, and actions of academics reveals their complicity in the normalization of dismissals of other university members in the 1960s, which also affected the subsequent major academic purge in 1983. Some senior academics saw the Turkey’s first military coup, which took place on May 27, 1960, as an efficient and fast way to remove a political enemy. These academics, who legitimized the coup, hoped that they would increase their control over the university thanks to their support of the junta. Contrary to this expectation, young academics seized the opportunity and collaborated with the junta to eliminate decades-long inequalities at the university. They purged some of their senior colleagues and moved into the vacant positions. University officials took note of the success of scholars who initiated the previous purge. During the academic purges in 1983, senior academics such as rectors and deans attempted to redesign universities by launching an unofficial dismissal campaign. The official purge list with fewer than a hundred names unofficially expanded to over a thousand. Together, these two purges and the role academics played in them weakened universities’ resistance to purges and helped them to become a regular feature of the political life in Turkey.

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