Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

The Rockefeller Foundation, John Marshall and the Development of the Humanities in Modern Turkey: 1950–1965

This article examines the involvement of the Rockefeller Foundation in the realm of the humanities in Turkey between 1950 and 1965. John D. Rockefeller founded the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. Focusing on medicine and social sciences, the foundation aimed to enrich “scientific culture” and support the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The scale of the destruction during the Second World War, however, showed that scientific and technological progress was not necessarily beneficial for humanity and revealed that the social sciences were an insufficient means of understanding and governing human behavior. In its search for a new approach in the aftermath of the war, the administration of the foundation came to the conclusion that the development and support of the humanities could aid in addressing these failures. As a country of strategic importance for American interests during the Cold War, Turkey increasingly drew the attention of the foundation. While Turkey had received some Rockefeller support before 1945, mostly in the field of health, between 1950 and 1965 the foundation’s growing support for projects in the country increasingly focused on the humanities. The key person in the foundation’s activities in Turkey was John Marshall, vice-director of its Division of Humanities. During his frequent visits to Turkey between 1948 and 1960, Marshall met and befriended bureaucrats, school administrators, and men of arts and literature. According to Marshall, Islam maintained a surprising hold in the Near East, and he believed that for this reason only locals, not foreigners, could be the vanguards of future social change in the region. Marshall divided Turkish society into two rough groups: the “impregnable majority” and “creative minority,” claiming that Turkey’s rapprochement with the West could only be achieved by the “creative minority” who shared its vision. For him, the duty of western organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation was to identify members of the creative minority and support their activities locally. In the following years, this framework shaped the activities of the foundation in Turkey. Rockefeller grants quickly became in high demand among the Turkish intelligentsia and left a serious impact on the direction of Turkish Westernization. Ali ERKEN
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