Value of Heritage in Turkey

History and Politics of Turkey’s World Heritage Nominations


  • Çiğdem Atakuman TÜBİTAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey),



heritage, identity, nationalism, Turkey-EU relations, Turkish history, Turkish-Islamic synthesis


Following Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession into the European Union, EU expansion has reached its final frontier with the process of Turkey’s prospective integration, through which both Europe’s and Turkey’s respective cultural identities have been under negotiation. From a European perspective, Turkey, with its culture, religion, and pseudo-democracy, may appear seriously to challenge some of the most fundamental values of Europeanness. In fact, the very same argument is being made by Turkish politicians and members of the Turkish public, who fear that the nation will lose its unique characteristics in the process of becoming European. Taking its cue from the premise that national identities are continuously re-configured within heritage discourses, this study attempts to portray how values of heritage have become entangled in Turkey’s century-long search for an identity within the Western civilized world while continuing to protect its core cultural values. This struggle for self-definition is represented in the context of the history of Turkey’s international relations with Europe, specifically following the 1980 coup d’etat and Turkey’s first nominations to the World Heritage List in 1984. It is argued that the ambiguity of the EU’s definition of ‘Europeanness’ has continued to highlight those elements in the heritage and identity discourses that would define ‘Turkishness’ in opposition.

Author Biography

Çiğdem Atakuman, TÜBİTAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey),

Çiğdem Atakuman holds a PhD in Archaeology from UCLA. Her fieldwork concentrates on the later Neolithic landscape of the Kahramanmaraş Valley in southeastern Anatolia. Formerly the Head of Science and Society Department at TÜBİTAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) and editor of the popular science magazine ‘Bilim ve Teknik’ (Science and Technology), she currently serves as Principal Expert at TÜBİTAK. She has been teaching at the Middle East Technical University’s (Ankara, Turkey) program in Settlement Archaeology since 2004.



How to Cite

Atakuman, Çiğdem. (2010). Value of Heritage in Turkey: History and Politics of Turkey’s World Heritage Nominations. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 23(1), 107–131.