World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Diaspora Politics: Circassians in Turkey (378) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 5.00-7.00 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Yildiz Technical University, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (Turkey)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Setenay Nil Dogan

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Diaspora, which is a relatively old term used to refer to the histories of some particular communities, has acquired increasing scholarly attention since the 1990s. It has become a tool for social science to investigate the hybrid, transnational and global sites of identities and politics which challenge the national order of things, the naturalized and normalized understanding of the world of nations as a discrete partitioning of territory (Malkki 2001: 55). However, throughout the 1990s diasporas’ relationships with the nation-states have proved to be much more complicated; diasporas both challenge and corroborate nation-states’ authority (Axel 2004:54) and national order within which nation-states are located. As diasporas have proved to be effective political groups as far as conflicts, wars and politics are concerned; diasporic communities are also bound by their own nationalisms. This panel aims to explore the notion of diaspora first, as a choice which is manifested as a voice at the political level and which even though ambivalent and fragmented may serve to deconstruct hegemonic nationalism (Balkan and Shelton 1998: 5). Secondly, diasporas are regarded as composed of multiple actors who participate in several networks of relationships with the homeland, host community, international community (Tambiah 2000). Such an approach aims to move away from the idea of ‘victim diaspora’ and to locate diaspora in a more complicated web of relationships, bargains and strategies. Thirdly, this panel considers diaspora the crossroads where nationalism, ethnicity and globalization meet and cross each other. From such a perspective, diaspora is a heuristic device through which the dynamic terrains of nationalism, ethnicity and globalization can be explored. The panel aims to focus on diaspora politics of the Circassians in Turkey, an under-researched ethnic group within the academic studies on ethnic groups in Turkey. Circassians are the indigenous people of the North-West Caucasus who were deported en masse into the Ottoman lands in the nineteenth century. As the largest wave of immigration was to Anatolia, Circassian community in Turkey today is considered the largest Circassian community when compared to Syria, Jordan and Palestine/Israel and other diaspora communities formed through secondary immigrations to Germany, Holland and the United States. Taking Circassian diaspora in Turkey as an actor in a complicated web of relationships, bargains and strategies, the panel aims to understand the relationships of Circassians with the host community and state, diasporic homeland and other diasporic communities and the ways and the mechanisms through which these relationships are transformed into diaspora politics throughout the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.

Chair: Setenay Nil Dogan (Yildiz Technical University, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences)

Discussant: Seteney Shami (Social Science Research Council)

Paper presenter: Sevda Alankus & Erol Taymaz (Izmir University of Economics, Department of Media and Communication & Middle East Technical University, Department of Economics), “The Formation of a Circassian Diaspora in Turkey”
Sevda Alankus and Erol Taymaz, in their paper “The Formation of a Circassian Diaspora in Turkey” study the construction of the Circassian diaspora in Turkey with a special emphasis on the discourse of Circassian intellectuals from different generations in different political contexts. The paper focuses on the post-1990 period that is characterized by the rediscovery of the homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union to shed light on the process of the formation of the Circassian diaspora in Turkey.

Paper presenter: Setenay Nil Dogan (Yildiz Technical University, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences), “Diasporic Manoeuvres vis-à-vis/through Nationalism: Circassian Activist Discourses in Turkey”
Setenay Nil Dogan, in “Diasporic Maneuvers vis-à-vis/through Nationalism: Circassian Activist Discourses in Turkey” explores the discourses of Circassian activists in Turkey on Turkish nationalism in particular and nationalism in general in the post-1990 era. She argues that Circassians in Turkey not only produce discourses on Turkish nationalism but also relate to and act on Turkish nationalism in several ways and through these discourses diaspora activists simultaneously rejects, imitates and challenges hegemonic nationalism. Hence, the relationship between diaspora and hegemonic nationalism is far from being an exact opposition but rather includes political manoeuvres that are open to rapid change and transformation.

Paper presenter: Zeynel Abidin Besleney (School of Oriental and African Studies University of London), “Transformative Effect of the Internet on Circassian Diaspora Politics in Turkey”
Zeynel Abidin Besleney, in “Transformative Effect of the Internet on Circassian Diaspora Politics in Turkey” explores the Internet practices of the Circassian diaspora in Turkey and their effects in terms of transforming Circassian diaspora politics in Turkey. He argues that while offering new communication channels that have freed Circassians from the assimilatory policies of the host state, the role of the internet is in many ways analogous to that of Benedict Anderson’s ‘Print Capitalism’, in terms of connecting political activists with their audiences in fast and unrestricted ways and of breaking down the Circassians’ traditional barriers of communication where the old and veteran members of the community practiced hegemony of knowledge over the young. His paper underlines the formation of a novel breed of young activists and ideologues on the diasporic political scene.

Paper presenter: Mitat Celikpala (TOBB University of Economics and Technology, Department of International Relations), “Post-August 2008 Developments in the Caucasus and Reflections on the Circassian Diaspora in Turkey”
This paper aims to explore and discuss the effects of post-August 2008 developments on the Circasisian diaspora in Turkey. The paper focuses on new trends to establish different diaporic organizations with a special emphasis on the main arguments of different groupings. Çelikpala argues that this analysis is an essential to understand the last phase of the transformation of the Circassian diaspora from one and monolithic body of diaspora to different diasporas.