The discursive governance of population politics: the evolution of a pro-birth regime in Turkey

Umut Korkut*, Hande Eslen-Ziya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
193 Downloads (Pure)


This article investigates the puzzle of the emergence of Turkish politicians' discourse on population stagnation and growth despite healthy population growth and an above-replacement-level birth rate. We understand this emergence through considering how politicians link national identity and economic value to population increase. Empirically, our article traces the slogans that then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan and the governing party politicians used to frame the "population issue" in Turkey from 2008 to 2013. Drawing from the Ajans Press database of over 5,000 newspaper articles, we selected 120 of the news items including politicians' slogans: the terms children, women, economy, family, morality, and birth. We grouped them in four clusters: youth/young couples, children, population control/ abortion, and prosperity. This allowed us to depict how politicians' slogans sustain the dimensions of population politics that we inductively generated. We show that the "three children" slogan of the current President Erdoǧan preceded and replaced population policy deliberations, and affected the public discursively. Thanks to a media that is only semi-free, this discourse has acquired an existence beyond the context where it was initially expressed. We argue that the norms embedded in political discourse and circulated for public deliberation generate the discursive governance of population politics. Thereby, politicians advance governance even without introducing major policy changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-575
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Politics
Issue number4
Early online date4 Sep 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • politics
  • governance
  • Turkey


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