Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Samira Haj

Committee Members

Beth Baron

Andreas Killen

Christine Philliou (University of California, Berkeley)

Ervand Abrahamian

Subject Categories

History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Intellectual History | Islamic World and Near East History | Near Eastern Languages and Societies


Turkey, Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, Spiritualism, Bio-politics, Modernity


This dissertation examines the epistemological and conceptual formation and articulations of madness, mental health, and selfhood in the context of creating a modern Turkish nation (1923-1960). Three inter-related themes run through the study. First, the emergence of new and often contested medical discourses on mental health that engaged with and participated in the construction of healthy secular subjects within the imaginary milieu of the Kemalist nationalist project. Second, the processes through which psy-sciences, armed with scientific rationality, came to engage with and appropriate the language and the terrain once occupied by religion. And third, the intricate discursive fluctuations over the definitions of the soul, psyche, and mental health as they came to unfold within the temporal and spatial settings of early and postwar Turkey—and which, by implication, challenged the post-enlightenment myth of a universal and linear progression towards a teleology of science. The emerging psy-scientific discourses on mental health are addressed in the study through a thorough analysis of the works of three experts (Mazhar Osman Uzman, Izzeddin Sadan, and Bedri Ruhselman), who held competing and conflicting views on mental health and the formation of normative and productive Turkish subjects. I argue that studying these experts and their different views on what constitutes the soul or the psyche, and what it means to be a healthy productive subject sheds ample light on the convoluted relations between the psy-sciences and the formation of the early republic. In this regard, the project traces the different ways in which these experts have contributed to the translation of the project of modernity as it was experienced in early republican Turkey, with their own particular definitions of health and pathology, science and superstition. Following the future careers and knowledge production of their disciples, the dissertation demonstrates as well the epistemological fluctuations and contingencies rather than the linearity expected of the authorized psycho-scientific discourses. In other words, this study does not take psychiatry and other psy-sciences as given or as naturally progressive but a part of a historical process that bound these discourses to enter into multilayered relations and conversations with older forms and practices, including religion and Islamic traditions.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Graduate Center users:
To read this work, log in to your GC ILL account and place a thesis request.

Non-GC Users:
See the GC’s lending policies to learn more.