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Negotiating the Economic and Social Meaning of the Izmir Fair in interwar Turkey
This presentation intends to contribute to the studies of the Izmir Fair in particular and commercial gatherings in general in early Republican Turkey. Its main purpose is to discuss how the Izmir Fair shaped the relations between state actors and citizens. As the largest fair of Republican Turkey, it has taken place regularly since 1933. Different segments of Turkish society were integrated into the fair. The preparation for the fair required the participation of various ranks of the bureaucracy, business leaders, and workers from the city center and the surrounding neighborhoods. While the cultural, economic, and political functions of the fair have been the purview of scholarly works in Turkish and English, its role in shaping state-society relations has received little attention. The empirical backbone of this presentation is exhibit catalogs, local newspapers, the periodicals of chambers of commerce, correspondence between local and central officials, and memoirs by visitors. I argue that although the fair occupied an important place in the collective memory of Turkish people both in Izmir and the rest of the country, and the government tried to promote a cohesive image of the Turkish nation through the Izmir Fair, the experience and meaning of the fair varied across different social classes and groups. To show this heterogeneity, I use a three-level analysis. I look at the differences between the experiences of small-scale enterprises and big enterprises, working-class and rich spectators, and top-level politicians and local officials. The Izmir Fair demonstrates how public authority was exercised and how public resources were allocated at the local and national levels. For example, big corporations benefited from the fair and obtained the support of the government more than small and medium-sized enterprises.
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Turkish Studies