Önder Çetin

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Following his MA in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (2005) at Sabancı University, Önder Çetin received his PhD in Humanities from Leiden University in 2011 for his research on the role of Bosnian ulama in the rebuilding of trust and coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since 2011, he has coordinated and participated in research projects on history and collective memory, curriculum revision, and the perception of immigrants in Turkish society. While teaching in the department of Sociology at Fatih University on ethnicity and multiculturalism, cultural memory, conflict analysis and resolution, Çetin has also coordinated international conferences on Cultural Memory and Coexistence (2011), Philanthropy and Peacebuilding (2013) and Roma Communities in Culture and Politics (2014).

Revisiting Collective Memory in Turkey through Curriculum Revision: Proposal for a Textbook for Secondary Education

Önder Çetin

The focus of my research at the GEI was on the findings of the preceding stage of my project on “Education for Reconciliation: Rebuilding of Social Harmony and Collective Memory in Turkey through Curriculum Revision”. When it was concluded in November 2014, I had my answers to the fundamental question of how officially recognised categories of “the Other” have been discursively constructed in the current Turkish curriculum. The project drew on a threefold analysis of the use of particular content, argumentation strategies and language in shaping inclusivist and/or exclusivist approaches. For instance, I found that the choice of history or religion as the main context of presentation of specific curricular content enabled the adoption of these strategies by the use of particular topoi in argumentation ranging from justice to loyalty.

Nevertheless, the answers to the aforementioned “hows” resulted in a new pair of “how”-led questions: How can history and social science textbooks be revised to contribute to intercommunal interactions based on equality and respect? How can the experiences of other countries contribute to the proposal of solutions in the Turkish context? My research fellowship at the GEI in January 2016 was primarily aimed at drafting teaching materials that would address the first of these questions via a twofold approach: not only eliminating elements fostering a culture of conflict, but also adopting a proactive approach in terms of transformative education by presenting cases of shared heritage.

The GEI has given me an inspiring opportunity to formulate answers to both these crucial questions by offering two outstanding sets of resources: works on peace education and textbook research for the first question and textbooks and supplementary teaching materials of several countries for the second. The former enabled me to adopt a more integrated approach to reconciliation from the perspective of textbook revision. My primary frame of reference initially drew on a “reminding” type of collective memory which functions through the use of nostalgic elements. By exploring the pros and cons of joint history textbooks and curriculum revision initiatives through detailed study of representative works held by the GEI library (examples might be Aktekin et. al. 2009, Korestelina and Lässig 2013, Koulouri 2005, Köksal et.al. 2012, Pingel 2010), I have adopted a stronger focus on the pedagogical framework. This particularly involved engagement with multi-perspective approaches and interactive learning activities designed to enable and encourage creative and critical thinking.

The latter set of works to which I referred above also provided me with exemplary issues to strengthen the multidimensional character of my proposal. Changes and continuity in everyday life in Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia: 1945-2000 (Čepreganov, Kuševa and Papajani 2003), for instance, supplied many documentary photographs and texts while I was considering how to construct my proposal in a more comprehensive and creative way by focusing on everyday life experiences. Childhood in the Past (Ristović and Stojanović 2001), on the other hand, was an inspiring answer to the question of how that revision might be constructed.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the highly supportive administrative and library staff at GEI, who did everything possible to make my stay rewarding and enjoyable. Their help throughout my fellowship has helped me not only in making use of comprehensive materials in drafting my proposed text, but also in compiling those to be used in my current Cultural Memory and Migration and Transnationalism lectures and seminars; further, I was able to draft a new course on Sociology of War and Violence thanks to my research at GEI.

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