Seda Altuğ / Between Colonial and National Dominations: Antioch under the French Mandate (1920-1939)

Between Colonial and National Dominations: Antioch under the French Mandate (1920-1939)

This study examines the gradual and uneven transformation that Antioch, as one of the three towns of the Sanjak of Alexandretta, underwent under the French mandate. The following thesis will argue against the perspective, which usually identifies the region with inherent ethnic hostility and sectarianism. Rather, it will state that the ethno- religious segregation in the city in social, political and spatial terms corresponds to the intensification of the nationalist ideology. In this sense, it will direct its attention to the early years of the mandate in presenting "continuity" with the late Ottoman times and during when Turkish and Arab nationalisms were not considerably popularized yet. The class structure and the patronage relations will be displayed as significant indicators reifying the continuity under the French mandate. This thesis will also pay attention to the emerging critiques against the status-quo by a marginal group among the frustrated sections of the society and try to elaborate their discourses and claims on the future of the Sanjak. The main argument of the thesis will be that the Turkish party involved in this anti-traditionalist movement was gradually centralized and standardized by Turkey and transformed into a statist, ethnic-nationalist movement primarily struggling for the annexation of the Sanjak by Turkey. A critical reading of French and Turkish sources together with the oral interviews displayed some significant insights on the nature of the conflict of the period under scrutiny. Accordingly, this research will emphasize the contest for domination in the public sphere between the rivalling political factions in the city in order to create consent with an emphasis on their employment of "traditional" networks for a modern discourse.