Silence in Official Representations of History: Implications for National Identity and Intergroup Relations


  • Tuğçe Kurtiş
  • Nur Soylu Yalçınkaya
  • Glenn Adams


Dominant representations of history evolve through differential exercise of power to enable memory of collective triumphs and silence memory of collective misdeeds. We examined silence regarding minorities in official constructions of history and the implications of this silence for national identity and intergroup relations in Turkey. A content analysis of official constructions of history inscribed in Turkish national university admissions exams (Study 1) revealed an emphasis on celebratory events, silence about ethnic and religious minorities, and a construction of national identity in ethno-cultural (e.g., as “Turk” and “Muslim”) rather than civic terms (e.g., in terms of citizenship). An investigation with Turkish participants (Study 2) revealed that denial of historical information regarding minority populations documented in sources outside the national curriculum was associated with greater endorsement of ethno-cultural constructions of identity and less support for minority rights and freedom of expression. We discuss the liberatory potential of alternative forms of historical knowledge to promote more inclusive models of identification and improve intergroup relations.