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PREMIÈRE PARTIE - Vivre l’école : dynamiques plurielles de construction des savoirs et des identités
Partie 2 : Éduquer à l’identité nationale et au patriotisme à l’école publique

School Shows Staged in Public Primary Schools in Turkey: Tools in the Making of Future Citizens

Les spectacles scolaires mis en scène dans les écoles primaires publiques en Turquie : des outils dans la formation de futurs citoyens
العروض المدرسية في المدارس الابتدائية العمومية في تركيا: أدوات لتكوين مواطني المستقبل
Ayşe Yılmaz
p. 85-102


Les spectacles scolaires sont des activités communes dans les écoles en Turquie. Cependant, il n’existe pas de programme scolaire officiel concernant les contenus de ces spectacles. Ainsi, les préférences des enseignants deviennent déterminantes dans leur préparation. À partir d’une étude qualitative menée à Istanbul comprenant une ethnographie dans un magasin de costumes, des entretiens avec des enseignants des écoles primaires publiques et des observations de spectacles, cet article s'intéresse aux manières dont les spectacles scolaires deviennent des outils de transmission des valeurs nationalistes auprès des élèves. L’absence de programme officiel donne aux enseignants une flexibilité dans leurs prises de décision concernant le contenu des spectacles. Ainsi tendent-ils à justifier leur décision en faisant des spectacles les outils d'une éducation nationaliste. Via ces spectacles scolaires, les enfants se voient transmettre ces valeurs nationalistes par leurs enseignants, soit de manière kémaliste, soit de manière culturaliste.

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1School shows are very common activities in primary schools in Turkey. During the second semester of the school year in particular, pupils stage a variety of public performances including folk dances, modern dances, theatrical and choric performances. There are a few occasions for such performances in schools, such as national holidays, the celebration of the end of the school year, and the celebration of the first graders’ learning how to read and write. Yet, more than half of the shows take place on the national holiday of April 23rd, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, or in the week including this date. The process of staging a show consists of a long preparation period starting at the beginning of the school year and it ends with a show staged by children towards the end of the same school year. However, there is not a specific school program for these shows in the official curriculum prepared by the Ministry of National Education. Thus, the absence of an official program allows teachers to determine the content of the performances and ensures flexibility in their preferences. As teachers are determinant in the decision-making processes regarding the content of the shows, it is observed that they tend to justify and legitimize their decisions by making these shows tools for nationalist education.

2The goal of this article is to apprehend how, in the hands of teachers, school shows contribute to the nationalist education of children in schools. Given the context, this research focuses on the shows prepared to be staged on April 23rd by public primary school children in Istanbul. It investigates teachers’ perspectives in the making of school shows regarding the following research question: How do school shows become tools for transmitting nationalist values to children in the absence of an official curriculum regarding these shows? In this article, I will underline how primary school teachers consider the preparation and staging of the shows and what messages they want to convey. In other words, I will analyze teachers’ projects and practices in the making of school shows.

3This article draws upon the socialization perspective and considers the school shows as agents of socialization. This concept is described as the way in which people are shaped and transformed by society (Darmon, 2010, 2018). The process emerges due to moments of interaction, so in social life, and there are various agents of socialization which contribute to the socialization of individuals (Handel et al., 2007; Waksler, 1991; Détrez and Perronnet, 2020; Lahire, 1998; Lignier and Pagis, 2017). As schools are one of the most powerful agents of socialization, this article examines how, and in which ways, the school shows function as such. For this, it focuses on teachers’ decision-making processes in the making of these shows.

4Since schools are the institutions where children are educated and develop into members of a given society, children acquire not only knowledge at school, but they also learn how to live in a society (Raveaud, 2006). They acquire societal norms and values and learn how to behave adequately. As described by Ballantine, Hammack, and Stuber (2017: 301), “students are expected to learn to behave as students and later, citizens; this learning is no less important or less subject to evaluation than the academic learning.” This article focuses on the latter where children are expected to learn to behave as citizens. Raveaud (2006: 2) describes this as: “all the expected forms of belonging and participation, valued and sought” by the teachers at the schools examined in this research.

5Given the role of schools in raising the future citizens of the nation since the beginning of modernity (Meşeci-Giorgetti, 2019), it is observed that schools, as agents of socialization, use different tools to reach this goal of citizen-making, as is underlined in previous research about education in Egypt (Herrera, 2000, 2002, 2006), in Jordan (Adely, 2010, 2012), and in Bolivia (Luykx, 1999). As for Turkey, since the beginning of the 20th century, education has been nationalized (Altınay, 2004) and it has its tools for a nationalist citizenship education (Kaplan, 1999). Examples of these tools are: the collective recitation of the student Oath, which has been compulsory for years, at the beginning of every school day; the national anthem that must be sung before the classes start every Monday and after the last lesson every Friday; and the obligation to exercise ceremonies and commemorations on all national days. In this research, it is shown that school shows are considered as such tools given the fact that they are very common among school children in Turkey, as Öztürkmen (2001a: 47) highlights:

The childhood memories of most Turkish citizens are full of images of national holiday celebrations. Loudly recited heroic poems, enthusiastic folkdance performances, costume parades and school shows, anxious teachers, and involuntary laughter during the long, silent moments of commemoration--all are part of these images.

6From this standpoint, this article examines how school shows function as tools in transmitting values aiming at nationalist education in the making of citizens of the future. The research is based on a qualitative study conducted in Istanbul as part of my doctoral research. Fieldwork consists of three parts: an ethnography in a costume shop, in-depth interviews with teachers, and observations of school shows.

7The ethnography took place in a costume shop where different costumes for school shows are rented, mostly to teachers. It was carried out for twelve months during two respective years (from February to the end of July in 2018 and 2019). I chose this period for conducting this research because this is the period during which most school shows take place. The shop is located in Istanbul. In the surrounding areas of the shop there are several schools, therefore, it is a place frequently visited by people who are engaged in preparing school shows during the second semester of the school year. The ethnographic work has contributed to the collecting of data around the preparation process and staging of the shows by means of observing customers and accessing their points of view. It has helped me understand teachers’ preferences and their means of producing the school shows. It also helped me develop a typology of the school shows staged in different contexts in Istanbul.

8In addition, I conducted individual in-depth interviews with fifteen teachers in public schools in two of Istanbul’s middle-class districts. By undertaking interviews, I was able to gain a deeper insight into their preferences. I followed a purposive sampling approach and I contacted the teachers who engaged actively with the activity classes where shows are prepared. I interviewed class teachers and activity class teachers. At primary schools, each class has a class teacher, who teaches different subjects to the children and who is the principal teacher of a given class for four years, the duration of primary school in Turkey. Activity class teachers, the experts in putting on school shows, are contracted employees who work in conjunction with the class teachers to prepare the shows. Their duty is to prepare the shows with the class teachers retaining overall responsibility. They are certified in teaching content for the school shows, such as folk dances and theatrical performances. Six of the interviewees were activity class teachers and nine were class teachers. Ten of the interviewees were women, while five were men. Their ages ranged from 30 to 57 years old. All the class teachers were university graduates, three of the activity class teachers were university graduates and four were high-school graduates. During the interviews, I questioned the teachers about the processes involved in making school shows, including subjects such as show preparation, their preferences regarding content, choreography, music, costumes, and the show schedule, their views on the making of shows, the impacts the shows have on children, and their motivations for preparing shows. All interviews lasted an average of 56 minutes. They were all recorded, transcribed, and analyzed.

9The last step of the fieldwork consisted of show observations. I observed primary school children performing various shows, such as folk dances, modern dances, theatrical, and choric performances for different occasions, such as national holidays, school closures, etc. However, this article will only focus on the 25 shows I observed on April 23rd. The observations contributed to visualizing teachers’ narratives concerning the shows mentioned in the in-depth interviews and to providing an improved understanding of the information shared by the customers of the shops.

10All necessary approvals and permissions for conducting this research in public schools were obtained from the Ministry of National Education in Turkey. Participants were informed that their participation was voluntary and their consent was given. In order to protect the anonymity of the participants, pseudonyms are used instead of the participants’ names.

Absence of an Official School Program for School Shows

11Any education system is made up of two parts, formal and informal, described as the following (Ballantine et al., 2017: 298):

The formal part, consisting of roles and structure; and the informal part, consisting of those unplanned, unofficial, and often unintentional aspects that exist alongside or independent of the formal, official functions of the school.

12In the introduction of this article, I underlined that there is no official school program regarding school shows in Turkey. This is the reason why school shows remain in the informal sphere of the educational system. In the absence of a definitive program, these activities belong to the informal curriculum in the educational setting that provides an implicit education for socialization to the norms of society.

13In the absence of a clear and defined school program for the preparation of the school shows, they are prepared mostly by activity class teachers within the scope of a course called “free activities”. This course was implemented in 2010 by a ministerial decree by the Ministry of National Education. In Article “A” of the decree, it is described that (Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı Talim ve Terbiye Kurulu, 2010):

  • 1 Translated from Turkish by the author.

As a social, cultural and educational activity, the following can be implemented: folklore, theater performances, concerts, music, monologues, dialogues, group discussions, public speaking and writing, reading books, listening, organizing exhibitions, taking trips and making observations, conducting investigations, solving riddles and puzzles, debating, reciting poems and songs, asking questions, providing answers, expressing emotions and thoughts, playing games, watching films, gardening, and raising plants and animals.1

14The content of this course is designed by teachers and/or by the school administration. Each teacher can choose an activity that will be carried out in class. Although these classes take place during the weekly timetable in the same way as other classes, the whole show preparation process is implemented according to the teacher’s preferences. In other words, the absence of a defined and strict school program for these courses carried out throughout the year implies a degree of flexibility in determining the content. These courses, and therefore these performances, allow various ideas and practices regarding children and their education to be discussed and negotiated.

15Even though teachers determine the content without strict instructions, in the absence of a school program, they always tend to justify their preferences. So, they often mention the positive impacts and the contribution of the shows for children. In the context of the public primary schools examined in this research, school shows are assigned several functions according to the teachers. Analyses of the teachers’ narratives reveal that the shows are considered powerful tools for education. In addition, according to the data collected in the costume shop, it is observed that school shows begin at an early age, they are repetitive and long-lasting, and they require children’s bodily engagement. Such activity is indeed particularly likely to have a strong influence on children in terms of socialization (Court, 2019). From this perspective, school shows function as agents of socialization and contribute to the inculcation of societal values in children. Teachers often underline that these activities are effective tools for raising a new generation:

I think our work is very valuable in a way. Because we are raising children, they are the candidates to empower society, they are the next generation. […] In this sense, our greatest motivation is our success in bringing children from one point to another. (Seyda, woman, class teacher, 43 years old)

Either way, it’s the main goal to properly raise these generations for the future of my country. (Ihsan, man, class teacher, 34 years old)

16Given the examples, the contents of the shows are related to this motivation of raising the future generation. However, there is no consensus on how to raise future generations, as teachers have different motivations and ideologies. Based on the data I collected during the ethnography in the costume shop, I observed that teachers tend to prepare and stage the school shows differently in various contexts in Istanbul. By analyzing the ethnographic data, I identified a typology of six trends in the making of the shows according to teachers’ aspirations and ideological orientations: The Kemalist trend is related to the memory of the past, the symbol of Atatürk, and the nationalist values attached to them. The culturalist trend is linked to the country’s traditional culture and folklore. The modernist trend represents the western performing arts. The religious trend is connected to the transmission of Islamic religious knowledge. The conservative trend is related to the transmission of traditional conservatism. Finally, the neo-Ottomanist trend represents the revitalization of the Ottoman culture and Ottomanist symbols. These six trends represent different ways in which the shows become agents of socialization. However, even though these six trends have arisen out of the analysis of the data collected during the ethnography in the costume shop and the observations of the school shows in different educational contexts in Istanbul, the Kemalist and culturalist trends have arisen from the in-depth interviews with teachers conducted in two similar districts of Istanbul. Since the context is socially, culturally, and politically similar at the schools where I conducted interviews with teachers, there is a homogeneous image in the making of the shows where the teachers’ objective is the nationalist education based on Kemalist and culturalist trends. Consequently, this article will only focus on these two trends.

Transmission of Nationalist Values in the Making of Future Citizens

Kemalist Trend in Transmitting Nationalist Values

17Kemalism is rather a nationalist tendency (Kili, 1980), and is described by Cizre-Sakallıoğlu (1994: 255) as follows:

Kemalism, the official ideology of the republic, was named after its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Kemalism was the secular, positivistic and rational ideology of the republic determined to build a nation-state out of the multi-national Ottoman Empire, and then to modernize it on Western lines. […] Kemalist nationalism committed itself to a feverish program of Westernization […] The ideology has advocated a return to traditional values and institutions, […] supplanting Westernization by Turkification. […] The concern of Kemalist nationalism was a territorial one, restricted to creating national consciousness only for the Turks living within the boundaries of the Turkish nation-state.

18Regarding this description, I will examine the example of the teachers who prefer staging shows on national holidays that glorify Kemalism. In the interviews, they emphasize the importance of such national days and the role of school shows in raising a generation attached to national values.

19The Kemalist orientation is the most observed trend in schools examined in this research. In general, these types of shows are staged on a national day, and they feature nationalist themes. In most of the cases observed, the shows take place on April 23rd, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. Teachers often emphasize that children need to know why and for what reasons they perform a show on April 23rd. According to them, this is something that all citizens should know because this day refers to the establishment of the first national assembly in Turkey in 1920. It is therefore considered an important moment in the history of Turkey, a democratic country in the process of being formed at the time. For this occasion, on April 23rd, national sovereignty is celebrated and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is commemorated:

Regardless of parents political views, children need to learn April 23rd. The historical context must be explained to the children. They must know the importance of this day for the Republic of Turkey. It is very important to know Atatürk and the history of our country. In my opinion, nothing can be done without a reason, so all the shows should carry meaning. The shows should declare something, they must have a reason to exist. For me, this is the reason behind the April 23rd shows. (Fatma, woman, class teacher, 45 years old)

  • 2 10th Year March.
  • 3 İzmir March.

20This commemoration is also enriched by the materials used during the shows and by the decoration. During showtime, school gardens, especially where the shows take place, are decorated with white and red colors, representing the Turkish flag. Several small flags and balloons in white and red are hung on the walls. In addition, the children, as well as the spectators, carry small flags in their hands. Before the groups of children stage their performances, the national anthem and several other national songs are sung by the children, accompanied by spectators. “10. Yıl Marşı2 and İzmir’in Dağlarında Çiçekler Açar3 are two of the most popular songs: The former glorifies the 10th year of the Republic by mentioning its accomplishments, and the latter refers to the İzmir front of the Turkish war of independence. In such an environment, the shows become carriers of nationalism. They allow children to learn and memorize the past in a specific way that relates to national values.

21Gensburger and Lefranc (2017) examine the school, “as a socializing framework and a place for learning history”, and they question the civic function of memory at school. They emphasize the “contemporary presence of the past” and explain memory policies as “actions which, in order to act on society and its members, and to transform them, mobilize the memory of the past”. Based on these ideas, it is observed that the shows become an instrument to teach this reminder of the past to children (ibid.), necessary for the formation of citizens, according to the teachers in this research.

22As for the performances staged within the framework of national ceremonies, they are considered the markers of nation-building and play an important role in the formation of nations (Elgenius, 2011) by helping to mold national identity (Ben-Amos and Bet-El, 2005). National consciousness is therefore considered an essential quality in education and, according to the teachers, is transmitted to children through the shows:

National holidays should be celebrated with enthusiasm in order to maintain national consciousness. Children must be taught the feeling of unity and national solidarity. That's why we do the shows. Except for the celebration and commemoration, I believe that shows have no meaning. […] I raise the children in my class in this way, they all know April 23rd. I teach them everything they need to know about our country, our past. (Nezahat, woman, class teacher, 33 years old)

23It is through intergenerational transmission at schools (Rey, 2011) that teachers consider that they raise children to be future citizens of the country. In the educational system, shows are assigned an important role in fulfilling a socializing function (Court, 2019), as described by a teacher in the following quotation:

Now, indeed, one of the functions of education is to transmit our values to future generations, so, let’s say, through various national days, such as April 23rd. For example, “who offered April 23rd to children? How did we get to such a point as a country? Well, what did Atatürk do there, what did his comrades do?” The shows are actually one way to explain all this to children. In other words, they are a means of transmitting our traditions and our customs to future generations. In other words, these aspects must always be present in education, but in such days, it is possible to transmit them much better. That is to say that children get an awareness, the parents come to watch them perform. It is important to make a performance, a show, a spectacle of what happened a hundred years ago. In other words, what did our ancestors do a hundred years ago, what did they do to save the country, how did they struggle in poverty and hardship? In other words, it doesn’t matter which national holiday it is, in our case it is April 23rd, which is children’s day, but how did this day come to be April 23rd? So, it’s actually a way to show children. In other words, it is one of the most important functions of education. I think it's about transmitting the past to future generations. (Ahmet, man, class teacher, 46 years old)

24It is also important to consider the types of shows staged on April 23rd. During the shows observed, a variety of genres are staged: folk dances, modern dances, theatrical and choric performances.

25The folk dance performances are the most observed genre on the stage because they are considered representative of the traditional culture of the country (Öztürkmen, 1998, 2016). From that standpoint, folk dances are closely linked to nationalism, which will be developed in the next section of this article. During the shows, it is observed that children perform the traditional dances of a city or a region of Turkey wearing traditional costumes. Modern dance performance is another genre observed in the school shows. In order to give the dance performance a nationalist character, children often wear costumes in red and white colors. In this genre of performance, sometimes a child is given a big Turkish flag to be hidden out of sight during the show and the finale of the performance is made with the sudden appearance of the hidden flag. As for theatrical performances, children generally perform a play about historical events which can be associated with Mustafa Kemal or the Turkish War of Independence. Teachers try to find costumes that appropriately represent the era of the establishment of the Republic in 1923. Children glorify the independence of the country on stage, as in this example:

Village life is depicted on the stage; there are traces of daily life. People are farming or herding animals. While people are busy with their work, a man comes to the village and calls everyone to the village square and makes an announcement. In his announcement, he mentions that the country is under enemy occupation and that men who can hold a gun are called to fight at the front. Afterwards, the men volunteer to go to the front and register. After that, we see women portrayed on the stage. The women make some preparations for the men and then send them off. In the next scene, we see only Turkish soldiers and foreign soldiers on stage. They fight and, after a while, foreign soldiers are thrown out of the scene, and many soldiers die. In the next scene, we see the surviving soldiers returning to their village and reuniting with their loved ones. Afterwards, the Republic is declared, and everyone participates in the Republic celebrations. (Notes from my fieldwork journal, 23rd April celebrations, 2019)

  • 4 Welcoming Mustafa Kemal song.
  • 5 Çökertme, name of a place in the Aegean region of Turkey.
  • 6 There is no translation for this song title.

26Choirs are also very often staged. In this genre, the Kemalist trend is illustrated through the choice of songs and costumes. The repertoire of the songs consists of the national marches and songs that are linked to Mustafa Kemal, such as “Hoş Gelişler Ola4, Çökertme5, Sarı Zeybek6. While performing on the stage by singing marches and songs, the children mostly wear t-shirts with the portrait of Atatürk on them. The stage is decorated with flags, and the spectators who accompany the children in their songs carry small Turkish flags in their hands.

Culturalist Trend in Transmitting Nationalist Values

27The other orientation in transmitting nationalist values to children in the making of future citizens is what I called the culturalist trend. “The culture” emphasized by teachers refers to the traditional culture of the country represented by folk dances.

28Since the establishment of the new Republic in 1923, school shows have occupied an important place in the process of nation-state formation. As Hobsbawn (1983) specifies, with the invention of tradition, the nation-state needed to have its own symbols which could represent it. A folk dance tradition is part of the nation-building process, as previous research shows (Roginsky, 2006; Rowe, 2011; Wong, 2010; Kalogeropoulou, 2013). According to Öztürkmen (1998, 2016), folk dances are “historically national”. Even though they existed before nationalism, with the foundation of the Republic in 1923, the state started a research program to collect local dances in order to construct national cultural symbols (Öztürkmen, 2001b). Therefore, the quest for collecting local folk dances has resulted in efforts for the invention of a new national culture that is close to a state-supported image of modernity. In this way, folk dances have become the products of the nationalization process in Turkey, as they enhance “national consciousness and contribute to nation-building in everyday events” (Kalogeropoulou, 2013).

29The role of schools, as institutions of modernity (Meşeci-Giorgetti, 2019), must also be underlined, as they become the sites where folk dances are transmitted to children. After the 1950s, in particular, folk dances began to be part of national holidays and official ceremonies in several institutions, including schools. Folk dances, as components of folklore (Başgöz, 1972), are closely related to the process of nation-formation (Baycroft and Hopkin, 2012). Even though different regions have their various and specific characteristics in their folklore, the interviewed teachers consider that they represent the multicultural structure of the country, which all together forms its culture and stands in for the nation. The cultural practices from different regions and cities in Turkey together form the basis of the culturalist trend in the making of school shows, from which none of the regions within the borders of Turkey is excluded.

For the shows, we stage folk dances so that the children first learn our culture. Every year we teach children the folk dances of a different region. Thus, we want them to know their country well when they graduate. (Tuna, man, contracted teacher, 34 years old)

30Additionally, there is a common idea among teachers that folk dances necessarily represent the traditional culture. That is why it is considered that they must be transmitted to children with the help of school shows:

It is our culture; I mean the folk dances. You know that societies degenerate when they forget their own culture. I never forget, I went to a festival in France, everyone was dressed very modern, but everyone was doing their own folk dances. I went to Finland too, everyone, from little ones to old people, wore their own national costumes on a national holiday and they walked around and danced like that. I think our children should learn folk dances. We should teach them. They must know them even if they don’t always practice them. (Emre, man, contracted teacher, 50 years old)

What is the importance of learning all this? When you teach folk dances regularly to children from first grade to the fourth one in primary school, they learn that it is the basic cultural element of the country in which they live. (Sıla, woman, contracted teacher, 30 years old)

31These quotations show that learning about the culture, as described by teachers, is necessary when learning about one’s own country. It is observed that this cultural transmission is the teachers’ responsibility in raising future generations. From this standpoint, the culturalist trend emphasizes the importance of education in local and traditional culture. This education includes the transmission of the components of folklore in Turkey, such as local dances, songs, and folktales.

32Within this scope, on April 23rd, folk dances and choirs of traditional songs are performed on stage. There is the idea that the child who performs the dance of any region of the country will have the chance to learn the songs of this region, as well as the costumes worn there. In addition, teachers emphasize that this process of discovering a region can be undertaken in a detailed way, encompassing various knowledge, such as the location of the region, in addition to songs and costumes. Teachers with this orientation prefer to prepare performances of folk dances from different regions every year so that children learn the cultural components of different cities and regions:

This year, we prepared a folk-dance show of the Zeybek (Aegean region). Here, first, children learn about the region where Zeybek is the basic cultural element. Then they learn the local music of that region and the special instruments used to play that music. When they put on the costumes of that region and put on a show, they learn the local costumes. The Zeybek folk dances represent the heroic Turkish soldiers, so they learn historical knowledge. When they perform this dance, they are also staging a historical narrative. (Seda, woman, class teacher, 34 years old)

33Learning about local and traditional culture through performances is part of a nationalist transmission at school. Besides, as I mentioned before, children begin to participate in these activities at a young age; they perform shows throughout their life in education and work toward these shows throughout the whole school year. There is also continuity in the making of these shows and it requires the bodily engagement of children. All these features reveal that school shows can be considered agents of socialization (Handel et al., 2007; Darmon, 2010; James, 2013; Sirota, 2005; Court, 2019). One of the teachers with whom I conducted an interview emphasizes this with the example of the bricks and the building:

When the children perform the folk dances of a region, there is not a complete knowledge of the culture of this region like “this is our culture, this is our region, this dance is performed in this region”. Whoever says that, that's not true. Because they are still children, they are small, but our goal is for every citizen of the Republic of Turkey to learn Turkish culture from an early age, with or without a conscience. Because it's a bit of a mental intelligence thing, basically, you have to teach children things systematically from the beginning, like constructing a building. From the foundation till the end, and that is our goal. It is to build our own culture in small bricks in our children, starting with the first grade or kindergarten. The important thing is that the child engages in this activity with happiness and pleasure. Now, perhaps he does not know in a detailed or desired way the region of the dance he is performing. But we want him to learn about his own culture, when he's in second, third or fourth grade at school, or when he sees it on television, he's going to say, “I performed these dances, I know these costumes”. We want him to experience that. Well, the basic method is to shape people from an early age, but to shape them right. (Hakan, man, class teacher, 53 years old)

34This excerpt from an interview shows how strong the school shows are as a tool for transmitting knowledge to children. Furthermore, this also explains why they are considered as agents of socialization in the making of future citizens of a country (Raveaud, 2006).


35This article analyzes the ways in which school shows, in the absence of an official school show program, are considered by teachers as tools in the making of citizens attached to nationalist values. In this respect, the subject is examined with the help of ethnographic work, teachers’ narratives concerning the shows, and observations made during the shows. It is shown that the teachers legitimize the school shows, underlining the fact that they are powerful tools in nationalist citizenship education. Thus, the shows contribute to schools becoming places where children are trained to become citizens of a given society in an expected way (Raveaud, 2006). However, the article has some limitations.

36First, as I underlined in the article, there are other school show trends in addition to the Kemalist and culturalist ones discussed. However, in the shows put on stage by the teachers with whom I conducted in-depth interviews in two socially, culturally, and economically similar districts of Istanbul, as I mentioned before in this article, these two trends are the most dominant. I argue that it is because the knowledge transmitted to children regarding Kemalist and culturalist trends already exists in the official curriculum of other courses like “social studies” and “life studies” in primary school. Within the scope of these courses, children are taught the importance of knowing the history of one’s country, its founding father, and its culture. Therefore, it is the legitimate knowledge that teachers aim to transmit. This legitimacy is ensured by the official school curriculum. That is the reason why Kemalist and culturalist trends emerge apparently as the dominant orientations in the making of school shows.

37Furthermore, another reason why these two trends arise is also that they comply with the politicization of the teachers. Even though most of the teachers did not mention their political opinions explicitly and directly during the interviews, they implied them many times in different ways. That is also why they insist so much on the preservation of Kemalist and culturalist values during the interviews, as shown in the excerpts.

38According to data collected during the ethnography based on school shows staged in other schools in different parts of Istanbul, it is understood that more shows with conservative, religious and neo-Ottomanist orientations have recently been staged, even though these trends still form a minority among all the shows by children in Istanbul. However, for a better understanding of the situation, a detailed analysis of these trends, which are mentioned but not developed in this article, is required and it necessitates further analysis and discussion with relation to the current political context of Turkey.

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1 Translated from Turkish by the author.

2 10th Year March.

3 İzmir March.

4 Welcoming Mustafa Kemal song.

5 Çökertme, name of a place in the Aegean region of Turkey.

6 There is no translation for this song title.

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Référence papier

Ayşe Yılmaz, « School Shows Staged in Public Primary Schools in Turkey: Tools in the Making of Future Citizens »Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 154 | -1, 85-102.

Référence électronique

Ayşe Yılmaz, « School Shows Staged in Public Primary Schools in Turkey: Tools in the Making of Future Citizens »Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 154 | 2023, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2023, consulté le 04 mars 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Ayşe Yılmaz

PhD in Sociology
Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, Turkey

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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