Visualizing A Prosopographical Study Of The Young Turk Elites: Using Data Mining, Network Clusters And Spatial Mapping

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Emre Erol

    Sabancı Üniversitesi (Sabanci University)

  2. 2. İnanç Arın

    Sabancı Üniversitesi (Sabanci University)

  3. 3. Selman Bilgehan Öztürk

    Sabancı Üniversitesi (Sabanci University)

  4. 4. Meryem Nagehan Ulusoy

    Sabancı Üniversitesi (Sabanci University)

Work text
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This poster presentation aims to visualize the output of a research project that seeks to analyze biographic data about the members of a distinct group of late-Ottoman / early-Republican elites, the Young Turks, who served in the parliament, in order to better understand patterns of relationship and activity among the various networks of these political elites whose roles were very significant in the making of modern Turkey. It seeks to discover the significance of certain biographic details (i.e. place and date of birth, educational background etc.) in the political careers of this historically significant generation of elites.
The poster is based on the primary author’s collaborative research project that aims to create a digital database and employ digital humanities tools to interpret the biographic data in question, which would then constitute a basis for a prosopographical research. The project brings together three humanities scholars and a computer scientist who is consulted for the uses of data mining and digital visualization techniques throughout the project.
The group under scrutiny in this project consists of the members of the Turkish Great National Assembly’s (GNA) five legislative periods (from 1920 to 1939) whose extensive biographical information is published as a collected volume in 2010 (Yıldırım and Zeynel, 2010). The MPs in this period, most of whom also belong to the group referred to as the Young Turks, are of great significance in the process of nation-state building in modern Turkey. Most of them were initially members of the constitutionalist opposition against Abdulhamit II, the last absolutist Ottoman sultan. They successfully forced him to re-introduce the Ottoman constitution in 1908 and ushered an era of constitutionalism that proved to be very fragile and lasted only until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the Great War. They played pivotal roles in the Second Constitutional era, the Great War, the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 and the eventual creation of the Republic of Turkey. Finally, many ended up being the members of the GNA. Therefore, which particular network among the larger group referred to as the Young Turks repeatedly remained as decision makers and why throughout this process of transformation is an important question in the scholarship. This research brings in a new angle to this debate.
This study focuses on the very first years of the new republic and the predominant roles of this elite network in the parliament of the new regime. Although there are strong biographical works on some well-known individuals of this prominent network, and some work on the collective biographical information of these elites (Frey, 1965 and Rustow, 1959), there is no large-scale prosopographical research about all of the parliamentarian elites of this period employing this novel approach informed by the use of digital humanities. As clearly demonstrated by previous scholarship (Adanır, 2001; Dündar, 2008; Tunaya, 2015; Zürcher 2010, 2014 and 2015), better understanding the patterns of relationship among the members of the network would help analyze its evolution to a smaller and closely-knit single-party network and also their nation-state building policies that uninterruptedly shaped modern Turkey until 1950.
The idea behind the prosopographical approach is to first identify common biographic elements / characteristics / features among the members of the elite networks in question, categorize them and then to build hypotheses about the meaning of commonalities and patterns. The research builds its analysis on the data of some 2200 individuals over five legislative periods of the GNA. Each individual’s data is classified under 17 categories. These categories include things like place of birth, marital status, educational institutions, total days of service, location of representation, professions and membership to various organizations of political significance etc.
Following the conversion of these categories into a digital dataset, the relationship between various data are studied with the consultation of the expert on data mining techniques in order to make assessments about existence of clusters, nature of correlation/relation between features in different categories, the strengths of certain relationships (based on confidence and support metric measurements) and the correlation between certain features and the length of the political careers. This is achieved through the results of association rule mining that aims to measure confidence metric and support metric for each prosopographical feature in the data set. The results are then considered to see if they comply with generalizations in the existing literature / state of the art with regards to the study of this political elite network. The goal of the poster presentation is to present the patterns found in the prosopographical research both visually (spatial and temporal networks) and statistically for peer feedback and sharing of the results.
The poster presentation aims to make a point about the potential of digital humanities tools in the field of Ottoman / Turkish history and in the study of political networks in world history. The structure of the supervisors’ project complements this aim and also explicitly discusses and presents its conclusions.

Adanır, Fikret. (2001).
Makedonya Sorunu. İstanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları.

Dündar, Fuat. (2008).
Modern Türkiye’nin Şifresi / İttihat ve Terakki’nin Etnisite Mühendisliği (1913–1918). İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları.

Frey, Frederick W. (1965).
The Turkish political elite. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.

Rustow, Dankwart A. (1959). The Army and the Founding of the Turkish Republic.
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Sema Yıldırım and Behçet Kemal Zeynel (eds). (2010).
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Zürcher, Erik J. (2010).
The Young Turk legacy and nation building. London: I.B. Tauris.

Zürcher, Erik J. (2014). Macedonians in Anatolia. The Importance of the Macedonian Roots of the Unionists for their Policies in Anatolia after 1914.
Middle Eastern Studies, 50(6): 960-975.

Zürcher, Erik J. (2015). Young Turk Decision Making Patterns 1913-1915. In Becker, A. et al. (eds),
Le génocide des Arméniens. Cent ans de recherché 1915-2015. Paris: Armand Colin.

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