Training Bureaucrats, Practicing for Europe: Negotiating Bureaucratic Authority and Governmental Legitimacy in Turkey



This article explores the reconfiguration of the bureaucratic field and the recalibration of the terms of hierarchy and distinction that go into establishing bureaucratic authority and governmental legitimacy in Turkey—a process prompted by the country's pending accession to the European Union (EU). Accession to the EU hinges on a substantive reorganization of the governmental field in Turkey according to European standards of good governance that emphasizes human rights and more egalitarian, cooperative state–society relations. Focusing on human rights training programs for state officials and government workers, I argue that the human rights agenda of the EU challenges the traditional role of state officials in Turkey as educators of the people by portraying them as subjects who are themselves in need of education and reform. As their traditional hold on the markers of modernity are contested in EU-sponsored training sessions, Turkey's bureaucratic actors are compelled to recalibrate their proximity to halk (the common people) and to base their claims to governmental legitimacy on being of the people rather than standing above them.