The Moral Burden of Memory: The Role of National Narratives in Democracy Building
This essay is a meditation on memory and democracy. I will argue that democracy as a way of life is conditioned upon how well a community remembers its past. The concept of democracy as a way of life, as distinct from a particular form of governance, has its origins in the political philosophy of John Dewey. I will approach this issue in a somewhat roundabout manner. In the first part, I will examine a series of Dewey’s writings from the early 1920s that resulted from his visit of the newly established Republic of Turkey. I contend that the serious shortcomings in Dewey’s analysis of Turkish state nation-building highlight deficiencies in his otherwise laudable and nuanced democratic theory. In the second part, I provide a more sustained analysis of the role of collective memory within a community, especially one that aspires to a democratic way of life. I will then conclude with a few reflections upon issues arising from Turkish collective memory as it relates to the Armenian Genocide.
Dewey, John. The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899-1924, Vol. 10: 1916-1917. Ed. Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980. Print. (Hereafter cited: MW10)
Lamprou, Alexander. Nation-Building in Modern Turkey: The 'People's Houses', the State and the Citizen, London: I. B. Tauris, 2015.
Obama, Barack. “Remarks by President Obama to the Turkish Parliament, April 6, 2009.” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-obama-turkish-parliament. (Accessed 25 December 2015.)
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