The British Journal of Sociology Vol IV. No. I. March 1953
Social Ranking in a Turkish Village
THE DEFEAT of the Central Powers in 1918 left Turkey apparently helpless. Not only were all the provinces of the Ottoman Empire in the hands of the allies, Istanbul itself was occupied, allied troops were in parts of Anatolia, and plans were afoot for a division of Turkey among the European Powers. With British and American support, in contravention of the spirit, if not the letter, of the armistice, Greek troops were landed at Izmir. Yet four years later, the Turks, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, better known perhaps by his adopted name of Ataturk, drove out all foreign troops, and obtained from the Powers the right to establish an independent and fully sovereign state. The Sultanate and Caliphate were abolished, and in 1923 the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed. By a startling series of reforms, Ataturk, a benevolent dictator acting through a nominally democratic constitution, set Turkey firmly on the path to westernisation. By 1928, the Islamic monasteries and seats of learning had been closed, the fez made illegal, the Ottoman legal code replaced by a new code based directly on European models, and the Arabic script replaced by a Latin script.
These reforms were followed during the thirties by attempts at industrialization, and at founding a genuine political opposition and granting a reasonable freedom of speech and press. After Ataturk's death in 1938, Ismet Inonu, his lieutenant, stepped into his shoes. The second World War interrupted both economic and political changes, but since the war, an opposition party has not only been organised, but in 1950 won a fairly conducted election, which lead to the resignation of Inonu and Ataturk's original party, though the new government claims to be as pro-Ataturk as the old. With economic and military aid from America, Turkey is making rapid economic progress both in expanding her still very limited industries, and in tackling the problem of agricultural productivity.
Somewhere about 80 per cent of the population of Turkey are peasants, among whom,
in spite of recent efforts, the illiteracy rate is still high. Very few of the intellectual
revolutionaries realized how slow and inefficient the practical application of the
reforms was bound to prove in rural areas, nor how limited would be the economic
benefits to the peasants. The Republic inherited a mountainous country with very
poor communications, and an administrative tradition totally unsuited to running
a modern state, staffed in many cases by people hostile to or incapable of grasping
the ideas behind the government imposed changes. In view of all this the present
rate of change in Turkey is as astonishing as it is interesting. But in this article
I propose to tackle a much more limited subject, and have given these few facts simply
to provide a
From October, 1949, to August, 1950, I did field work in a village of Central Anatolia, which lies out on the plateau about 20 miles to the east of Kayseri. I wish to describe the system of status in the villageˇor as I prefer to call it, following Homans (1) rank. I also use material from a second village which I am at present engaged in studying, and my statements are based on observations in other Turkish villages which I have visited or read about, mostly in the same area.
As far as I can judge, the village, which I shall call S. is typical of the central plateau villages. I was especially careful to choose a village which was unexceptional, and in this I seem to have succeeded. The range of wealth was more limited than in other villages of which I know. The second village, which I shall here call E, had a clearer class structure, but as my notes are as yet unanalysed, I shall only make use of general impressions gathered there during a three-month stay.
First-hand observation obviously gives my account a certain authenticity. But this does not mean that it should be incautiously accepted as it stands. It is, I find, almost impossible not to mislead people when attempting to describe a society to which they are strangers. We must use the terms of our own society for the social institutions which we wish to describe, but in so doing we are encouraging people to interpret our account by the experience to which those terms normally refer for them. In addition, every time I make a general statement I think of exceptions, and these cannot be stated in full as qualifications without making the account far too long for my present purpose. The very familiarity with village life makes me hesitate to make positive generalisations about it. The same dangers of misleading or oversimplifying are inherent in any form of social reporting, but the average observer perhaps is less aware of the complexity of his subject, and therefore less concerned about these dangers.
S contained about 100 households, and roughly 640 people. It is stone built, except that one or two families live in caves. Lorries passed daily on their way to Kayseri, two or three a day most of the time, more at the harvest, and none at all during the winter snow, which usually lasts from January to March. The staple crops are rye and wheat, but potatoes, onions, other vegetables, grapes and apricots are also grown in small quantities. The village land is not very fertile, and the villagers say they normally get about five-fold return for their seed. All cultivable land is owned and cultivated, except for some small areas of meadow reserved for pasture. There are few steel ploughs; and the normal method of agriculture is still the wooden plough, drawn by oxen, and the normal method of transport in the village, the two-wheeled ox-cart.
All land within the village boundaries is owned either by the village as a whole,
for pasture, or by individual villagers as crop land. The only exceptions to this
rule are a few plots which women who have married to other villages within reach
which are now worked from their new homes. I give a table of land holdings in the village.
Although I tried to check the accuracy of these figures by questioning, I made no attempt to measure. The conversion to acres is not precise, but it may safely be assumed that any error is in the direction of over-estimation.
It must be remembered, that, as there is a two year fallow system, only half of this land would be available each year, and very often not all that is ploughed. Sickness of men or oxen, shortage of seed, adverse weather, may prevent full use of what land a man has.
TABLE OF DISTRIBUTION OF LAND HOLDINGS
6 households owned no land
IO ,, ,, 3 acres or less 9 ,, ,, between 3 and IO acres 3I ,, ,, ,, IO ,, 20 ,, 3I ,, ,, ,, 20 ,, 33 ,, II ,, ,, ,, 33 ,, 53 ,, as 53 ,, IOO ,,
Income in the village may be augmented by odd services, such as heading animals; but many men go away to the towns to earn money for any period ranging from a week or two to two or three years. Without this external source of income, the village lands could no longer support the present village population. S is one of the poorer villages in the area, some of which have still as much land as they can plough.
These villages, as in other parts of Turkey, are compact clusters of houses, physically
separated by at least half an hour's walk. Since the villages are residentially highly
stable, each forms a clear social unit, and is made up of people who know each other's
affairs intimately and see each other frequently, even if they are hostile. Physically,
the village in turn consists of distinct buildings which correspond roughly with
the households. Each household should contain a male head, his wife, or rarely his
wives, his male children, and their wives and children, and his unmarried daughters.
Sons ought to, and normally do, remain with their father until he dies. Then, after
an interval of anything from a few days to years, they separate, and themselves become
heads of households. In practice, owing to infertility, premature death, birth of
sons late in the father's life, and so on, there were only sixteen three-generation
households out of the hundred-odd in the village. Households varied in number of
inhabitants from two, even one, to seventeen, the average being just over six.
These two social units, the village and the household, are obvious, and easily defined. But those social groups and divisions which are within the village, but larger than the household, are vaguer and more nebulous. The most important, although not always the most conspicuous, groups among the men are the groups of patrilineal kin.
These groups, which I call " lineages ", are rarely referred to specifically by the villagers. They have no common property, no common ritual, in fact, no corporate personality. A man simply owes certain duties towards, and feels a certain degree of affection for his close agnatic kin. These ties are strongest between brothers, weaker between brothers' sons, weaker still between brothers' patrilineal grandsons, and so on with each generation from the founder. The link is seldom remembered at all more than five generations back, and some people know only their grandfather's kinsmen. Even where agnatic connections are known to exist beyond four or five generations, they are not known precisely nor felt to be of much social importance. When an individual needs the assistance of his agnates they will come together, not so much out of loyalty to a corporate group, like men defending their village, but rather because they all have loyalty to the same individual who is in trouble. The group which forms on any specific occasion is seldom made up entirely of agnates. Some matrilateral kinsmen or even neighbours will usually be included.
The lineage's primary duty is defence of its members in quarrels or fights, and defence of property against aggression. Lineages carry on traditional enmity, even blood feuds, with each other, and as a result of a quarrel they may break off all social interaction with each other. On all such occasions, loyalty to the lineage is a paramount duty. The members of a man's lineage will also be his main source of help in time of sickness, famine, or other domestic disasters. The degree of social intercourse between agnatic kindred is more variable. The custom of dividing the paternal house between the sons means that brothers and brothers' sons often live side by side on the ancestral site. Such proximity strengthens ties, and unless there are quarrels there will be a high degree of intimacy. In E, various quarters of the village were called after the lineages. Very often the lineage expands so that there is no longer room on the old site for all the brothers; in this case, a new home may be started on the village outskirts. Quite often other members of the lineage will follow, and a new branch will be founded. The degree to which day-to-day social intercourse is maintained at this stage varies greatly, depending on such factors as personal likings, marriage ties, and physical distance.
I shall not discuss in general, even summarily, the part played in social relationships by marriage ties and matrilateral kinship, nor by neighbourhood. But there is one matter essential to an understanding of ranking which I must discuss.
Many of the wealthier households contain, besides family living-rooms, store-rooms,
and stables, a further room which is usually called a guest-room; but since it is