May 5, 2010 Cartoons of Early Turkish Republic To Be Topic of Swann Fellow's Lecture on June 1

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Martha Kennedy (202) 707-9115

Swann Foundation Fellow Yasemin Gencer will explore the visual and textual rhetoric of cartoons from the early years of the Turkish Republic in a lecture June 1 at the Library of Congress.

Gencer will present "Cartooning Progress: Secularism and Nationalism in the Early Turkish Republic (1922-28)” at noon on Tuesday, June 1, in Dining Room A on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.

In her illustrated talk, Gencer will discuss how cartoons had the power to create, shape and project a new Turkish national identity based on European models. She will look at cartoons that highlight reforms initiated during the early years of the Turkish Republic. In one cartoon, for example, an automobile made of Latin letters speeds past a camel composed of Arabic letters, demonstrating how the cartoonist combines text with visual metaphor to underscore the benefits of changing the official alphabet. Such cartoons from 1922-28 illustrate many reforms aimed at secularizing the nation.

The Turkish Republic of today was established in 1922, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of World War I. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938), known as Kemal Atatürk, the new republic put forth a reform program intended to distance the state socially and politically from its Ottoman and Islamic past, while simultaneously drawing itself closer to the secular and more technologically developed nations in the West.

As the first president of the Turkish Republic, Kemal is credited with modernizing his nation’s legal and educational systems and encouraging the adoption of aspects of European daily life. The transition from Turkish written in Arabic to Turkish written in the Latin alphabet can be seen as part of the modernization that unfolded during this period.

In her lecture, Gencer will draw on the materials that she has studied in the collections of the African and Middle Eastern Division and the Prints and Photographs Division.

Gencer completed a master’s degree in 2008, with a focus on Turkish studies, in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. Currently a doctoral student in the Department of the History of Art at Indiana University, she is studying Islamic arts with a specialization in Ottoman and Turkish Republican print culture. Her dissertation focuses on cartoon arts and satirical journals of the early Turkish Republican period.

The lecture, sponsored by the Swann Foundation, the Prints and Photographs Division and the African and Middle Eastern Division, is part of the foundation’s continuing activities to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world.

The Swann Foundation’s advisory board is comprised of scholars, collectors, cartoonists and Library of Congress staff members. The foundation strives to award fellowships annually to assist scholarly research and writing projects in the field of caricature and cartoon. Applications for the 2011-2012 academic year are due Feb. 15, 2011. More information about the fellowship is available through the Swann Foundation’s website or by e-mailing


PR 10-103
ISSN 0731-3527