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Green Revolution on Dryland: The Rockefeller Foundation and the Turkish Wheat and Training Project, 1970-1982October 13, 2019
This report introduces the Turkish Wheat and Training Project, one of the Rockefeller Foundation's flagship agricultural programs in the Near East, and a relatively unstudied player in Turkey's "green revolution." From 1970 to 1982, the Ankara-based, multinational staff collected plant samples from around the world, experimented with high-yielding varieties of (mostly) winter wheat, facilitated Turkish scientists' education abroad, and advocated for wheat's centrality to the Turkish economy. While grafted from the green revolution's most emblematic institution—the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)—the Turkish Wheat Project had roots in two deeper processes: the concept that Turkey was not living up to its agricultural potential and Ankara's engagement with US aid and expertise. After sketching these themes with sources from the Rockefeller Archive Center, this report narrates the wheat project's origins, participants, activities, and shortcomings. While the project's role as an engine of Turkey's agricultural "modernization" was—and remains—difficult to assess, its archive, situated at a confluence of institutions and epistemologies, is a valuable source for approaching the histories of Turkish agriculture, the green revolution, and the Cold War.
The purpose of my research at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) was to identify the ways that American philanthropic foundations' arts-focused initiatives connected to social science programs for modernizing the Middle East in the 1950s. This research is a central component of my forthcoming book, Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in 1950s Turkey. At the Rockefeller Archive Center, I found that John Marshall, Associate Director for the Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, was unusually forward-thinking in his belief that arts-focused philanthropy could help drive development in the Middle East. In what follows, I argue that the Turkish ceramicist Füreya Koral, to whom Marshall offered one of the foundation's very first artist's fellowships in 1956, served as a test case for Marshall's hypothesis that the modern artist had an important role to play in the modernization of the Middle East.
My research in the Rockefeller Archive Center is part of a larger project, tentatively titled, "Land as the Object of Development in Turkey, 1945-1980," that examines contests over land reform as a central site of statecraft, population management, and modernization, where competing visions of agricultural development, upheld by leftist intellectuals, populist politicians, and American experts, were implemented or stalled over the decades. The larger project examines how different approaches to rural development, rooted in the country's political economy, class configurations, and nationalist project, provided both the motivation for and alternatives to "adopting" rural development models urged by American advisors.
I first visited the Rockefeller Archive Center in 2006 to identify research materials about the Central Institute of Hygiene in Ankara, which was built with the assistance and financial support of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) in the 1920s and 1930s. With a Rockefeller Archive Center grant-in-aid, I returned for additional research in the archives of the Rockefeller Foundation on March 17-19, 2010.
I am pleased to be here this morning to participate in this discussion of Turkish immigration and visitation to the United States and the growth of mutual understanding between the two peoples that have resulted. In particular I want to invite Turkish scholars to make use of a unique set of records at the Rockefeller Archive Center that document cultural, scientific and intellectual exchanges between the United States and Turkey throughout much of the twentieth century.
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