World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


State-Society Relations in Contemporary Turkey (081) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Sabanci University (Turkey)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Ayse Ezgi Gurcan

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The overarching objective of this panel is to deepen both our understanding of the dynamics of state-society relations in Turkey, and to shed light on the contemporary challenges that particular groups, communities or parties face. The papers in this panel will focus on the question of how domestic, transnational and/or international actors and institutions shape state-society relations. Through five studies on state’s engagement with its citizens this panel seeks to explore under which conditions specific groups are included and disciplined or marginalized and excluded from the civic/political spheres. The authors analyze a variety of issues that range from minority politics to relations between state and religion. Each paper examines a distinct puzzle on state-society relations of contemporary Turkey through findings of original research. The papers will provide strong theoretical discussions on, and in-depth analyses of the Turkish case. The panel will also offer comparative perspectives from several European and North African countries that would be useful for analyzing the Turkish case. Chair: Prof. Meltem Muftuler-Bac. Sabanci University Discussant: Assist. Prof. Isik Ozel. Sabanci University.

Chair: :Prof. Meltem Muftuler-Bac (Sabanci University)
Discussant: :Assist. Prof. Isik Ozel (Sabanci University)

Paper presenter: Sinem Gurbey. (Columbia University) “Islam, Nation-State, and the Military: A Discussion of Secularism in Turkey”
The paper challenges the claim that ''Turkish secularism aims to repress religion in the public sphere in a coercive manner'' on two grounds. First, it essentializes religion by assuming that religion is an objectively identifiable concept and that as such it can be separated from the realm of the secular and become an object of state power. Second, the claim that the state represses ''religion'' relies exclusively on legal and constitutional machinery that restricts the use of religion for political purposes and consequently misses how a particular conception of religion is disseminated by state institutions in the private realms of culture and education in order to form new Islamic selves that agree to put the nation's ''sacred'' interests above all ''particular'' interests. The article problematizes the way military service is normalized in defending the secular constitution through an appeal to the Islamic conception of martyrdom.

Paper presenter: Amelie Barras & Sebnem Gumuscu. (London School of Economics and University of Virginia) “Struggling to define the terms of national contracts in Turkey and France”
Turkey and France are two countries facing novel demands from their citizens to revise the existing social contract and amend it with novel understanding of citizenship that gives greater space to religion. These two states as ardent followers of secularism, have built their conception of the ideal citizen around the principle of invisibility of their religious beliefs. Now these two states are increasingly challenged by their devout Muslim citizens who wish to revise this principle and revisit the social contract allowing them to be full citizens while publicly displaying their religious identities. This paper focuses on the recent discussions around the challenge to old conceptions of citizenship in Turkey and France, contending that these attempts to modify the existing social contracts are not necessarily challenges to secularism per-se; instead they are attempts at constructing an understanding of secularism more compatible with public piety.

Paper presenter: Ayse Ezgi Gurcan. (Sabanci University) “The Alevis and the State in Contemporary Turkey”
In the literature on religion and politics in Turkey, the systematic analyses of the sectarian differences and the study of heterodox religious groups, i.e. Alevis, remain limited particularly in the political science discipline. Following that shortcoming the purpose of this study is to concentrate on the case of Alevis; and discuss the transformation of the state-Alevi relations in Turkey, specifically in the last decade. The research problematizes the depiction of Alevis simply as the ‘Other’ of Sunnis, and hitherto followers and/or partisans of secularism, Kemalism or leftist inclinations. Instead the research declares the community is far more fragmented and complex. Further, the work also claims though Alevis are a minority group that lacks the associational and electoral power necessary to directly influence and/or change state policies, a study on them is crucial for understanding the ‘indirect’ effects of mobilization on polity.

Paper presenter: Selin Merzuka Turkes.(Sabanci University) “Consistency as a source of the EU’s influence on Turkey”
This paper provides a comparative analysis of the EU’s position towards the party closure cases in Turkey and Spain with regard to Kurdish DTP and Basque nationalist Batasuna, both of which have face closure cases due to their alleged ties with terrorist organizations PKK and ETA, respectively. For this purpose, EU’s official statements, press releases and documents in two cases are compared while possible reasons for a difference in the EU’s positions are considered. The comparison grants an insight into the consistency between the EU’s foreign policy and internal policy. The consistency is essential as it shapes the effectives of the EU’s foreign policy and therefore the EU’s influence on Turkey. Accordingly, the EU’s influence on Turkey is analyzed by comparing the EU foreign policy towards DTP case with its internal policy towards Batasuna case.

Paper presenter:: Ahmet ‘çduygu & Deniz Sert.(Koc University) “Consequences of Transnational Citizenship for Migrant Sending Countries: A Debate on Dual Citizenship”
In the last two decades, dual citizenship has become a key component of emigration-related policies of migrant-sending countries in order to enhance the transnational ties between their emigrant citizens with the homeland. This recent policy change has also been accompanied by theoretical debates about the possibilities of dual citizenship. In order to see and to evaluate the main consequences of transnational citizenship for migrant-sending countries, this study aims at exploring the evaluation of particular dual citizenship cases within formations of specific migration systems on a country by country basis. Thus, a comparative analysis of dual-citizenship regimes in Morocco and Turkey will be tied in with an interaction between their transnational contexts and domestic socio-cultural formations to diagnose the transformation of the classical notion of citizenship from a nationality defined context to its new transnational character.