In this study, I will analyze Halide Edip whose life spanned one of the most important transformations of Turkey from an empire to a nation state. Halide Edip has been and continued to be lauded as a patriot, and the ideal “Turkish woman”; on the other hand, Halide Edip is simultaneously depicted as a traitor on the basis of Atatürk’s portrayal of her in his Nutuk. Nevertheless, Halide Edip, through her works and deeds, as a nationalist, a women’s rights activist, modernist, educator, and popular novelist, managed to problematize Ataturk’s representation of her as a traitor and resisted against being denied agency in one most important events in Turkey’s histoy. I have tried to show how, through her undeniable contribution to the Turkish nationalist movement, she was able to problematize Atatürk’s account and to decentralize the “great man” history.
I emphasized Halide Edip played a critical role in shaping the cultural, ideological and political milieu of 20th century Turkey that was overwhelmingly male-dominant. I argued that her involvement in the ideological debates through her political deeds and literary writings played a critical role in determining the parameters of the perceptions, discussions, and applications of the major issues of nationalism, the “woman question,” and modernism. Rather than sharing the claim that her engagement with the “West” and the “woman question” failed to exceed the boundaries set by orientalist and patriarchal discourses, I tried to highlight Halide Edip’s ideological complexities that cannot be confined to the uncomplicated categories of secular, modernist, Islamist, feminist, or patriarchal. I observed that her writings insisted on the ideals of diversity, humanity, historical/cultural continuity and thus generated a discourse through which she negotiated within, against, and beyond the epistemological and ontological categories of the dominant discourses.
In this particular study on Halide Edip, my aims were two-fold. On the first level, I used her as a site of historical analysis through whose life and works I tried to reconsider a critical period of Turkish history. Secondly, I explored Edip as a critical political figure who supported and simultaneously questioned the existing discourses and dominant political trends. Rather than reading Edip’s different stances on certain subjects as Edip’s inconsistency, I interpreted this as her complexity and originality. I regard Halide Edip’s discourse as “innovative,” “revolutionary,” and “counter-hegemonic,” which emphasized interaction, exchange, and commonality rather than hostility, exclusion or “othering.” The unbiased interpretations of Halide Edip would inspire alternative views in today’s Turkey where Kemalist ideology has turned into dogmatism, where the aspiration to enter EU has almost become an obsession, and where the discussions of women’s rights is confined to the discussions on veil.