An atlas of maladies, microbes, and morals: tropes of scientism in early Turkey’s public health education

Kyle Thomas Evered, Emine Önhan Evered


Like many countries of the early 1920s, Turkey transitioned from empire to nation-state, a development in which scholars have identified modern, nationalistic, secular, Western, and even authoritarian agendas. Integral to each of these orientations were distinct prioritizations of hygiene, medicine, and public health. The universal scope of this mission to achieve national wellbeing posed particular challenges in a predominantly rural country comprising traditional communities with their own curative practices, and it was complicated further by widespread illiteracy, shortcomings in personnel and finances, and geography. Interrogating the ways in which officials and physicians initiated programs for schooling the citizenry in medical science and its virtues, this article identifies how the republic utilized a broad narrative of scientism to achieve its ends in its associated curriculum. Developing a straightforward and portable program for teaching public health personnel and citizens alike, public health authorities distilled the content of the republic’s medical museum exhibits into an atlas for broad distribution. Through mutually-reinforcing tropes of maladies, microbes, and morality, this atlas was intended as a key implement of governance designed to convey the scientific state’s biopolitical goals to throughout the nation.


governmentality; medical atlas; medical museum; nation-building; public health education; scientism; Turkey

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