Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010


Identity Issues and Discourse in Turkey (013) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Burak Kose (PhD Student, York University)

Paper Presenter: Burak Kose (PhD Student, York University) “PPoverty, Subalternity, and Conservative Governmentality: Compassionate Representations of the Urban Poor in Turkey”
This paper investigates the mutually conditioning relationship between reproduction of the subaltern and formation of the compassionate conservative subject in the contemporary cultural and political context of Turkey, by focusing on the public and media representations of urban poverty. My concern is to show how compassion produced through representations of the urban poor mediates the governmental space of conservatism that interweaves the political and cultural representations of the subaltern to elite politics. I argue for the concurrent reproduction of the subaltern and elite positions and operationalization of compassion in the governmentality of urban poverty. I examine the ways in which the representations of the urban poor reproduce their subaltern positions by articulating their voices into the dominant representations of poverty. I also examine the dominant discourses on the governmentality of poverty underpinned by such representations and how compassion mediates suffering of the poor to the urban middle-classes. I also look at how the category of poor is constructed, i.e. how poverty is framed, and who are deemed worthy of social aid and compassionate care, in order to analyze the ways in which political and cultural representations of poverty work in reproduction of subalternity. I argue that the urban poor who are spectacularized in public and media representations are subalternized; while their voices are continuously appropriated and articulated into homogenizing discourses on poverty, they are simultaneously silenced as their distinct histories, everyday inhabitations and structured conditions that produce their poverty are obliterated. My paper mainly draws on the theoretical discussions in postcolonial studies literature.

Paper presenter: Asım Karaömerlioğlu (Associate Professor, Boğaziçi University, Turkey), "Race and Science in early Republican Turkey".
This paper intends to focus on the Turkish eugenics movement in Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s within a comparative perspective. As an international movement of the turn of the 20th century, eugenic movements turned out to be very influential and widespread especially in North America and Europe. Turkey was not an exception and the rise of eugenics in Turkey was in part a response to the young Republic’s problem of population after the long wars of World War I and the War of Independence. The need to increase the population and the biological ‘quality’ of the population became a central theme in Turkey as well as in many other countries. However, eugenics encompasses many other important themes such as the role of science and values in the making of nationalism, the ‘governing’ of the population, social engineering and welfare state, the question of nature vs nurture, the hegemony of the middle class values and the so-called racial degeneration. Within this wider context, this paper aims to focus on some of the central themes and practices concerning eugenics in Turkey of the single-party regime (1923-1946). My goal is not to offer simply a presentation of the characteristics of the Turkish case, but to contextualize it within a comparative perspective. By so doing, I aim to look at Turkish nationalism on the basis of a much more ‘material’ basis and to contribute to the understanding of nationalism beyond simple discursive models mostly based on the elite perceptions. The Turkish case is interesting in the sense that eugenics, though it existed, was not pushed into the extremes. To support my arguments, I use many primary sources such as the conferences held by the governing Republican People’s Party, the Party reports and publications such as Ulku, many journals and conference proceedings of Turkish doctors such as Milli Tip Kongreleri (Annual National Congresses of Medicine), memoirs of doctors and the political elite and many journals from the era such as Yeni Adam, Kadro and Resimli Ay. Benefiting from these primary sources and from the huge literature on eugenics in the world, this paper aims to contribute a comparative perspective using the Turkish case. Taking into consideration the rise of hereditary ideas and practises based on genetics of our contemporary world, such comparative perspectives can be useful not only to understand the past, but the present as well.

Paper presenter: Engin Yildirim and Burhanettin Duran (Professors, Sakarya University, Turkey), “Clash of Discourses: Islamists and Secularist Interpretations of the Marmara Earthquake”.
The devastating earthquake that struck the most densely populated and industrialized area of Turkey on August 17, 1999 claimed more than 17.000 lives and injuring more than 40.000 people. The earthquake is sometimes considered as a turning point in Turkish society and regarded as the first modern earthquake in Turkey? (Mitchell 1999; Ozerdem et al. 2000). The earthquake happened at the height of 28 February Process, which can be seen as the explosion of one of the Turkish ideological fault lines (Yavuz, 2000), namely Islamism versus Secularism. Secularism, the most contested and diluted notion of Turkish democracy, has represented a battlefield of the conflict between Islamists and secularists, especially on how to determine its definition. In this vein, Islamist critiques of 28 February Process laid a great emphasis on the cleavage deepened by the undemocratic decisions of the National Security Council (NSC), between the state, Kemalist elite and the nation, Muslim people. This coincidence triggered an interesting debate between Islamists and Secularists over the meaning of the earthquake and the nature of the Turkish state. Some Islamist circles tended to see the Earthquake as the manifestation of God's dissatisfaction with the Secularist recommendations of NSC and exploited it as a sign of divine support against Secularists. Some Islamist interpretations of the earthquake enabled secularists to redefine Islamism as a reactionary threat to the scientific mind of the Republican Revolution. This paper examines how Islamists and Secularists depicted, exploited and interpreted the earthquake and 28 February Process to justify their competing political views over the nature of the Turkish state. It also aims to study the implications of how a seemingly natural disaster was politicized by the rival ideological groups. This paper enables us to analyze how theological and scientific discourses of the disaster were turned into discourses of power.

Paper presenter: Metin Toprak (Professor, Eskisehir Osmangazi University, Turkey), “Changing Axis of Turkey: The Dangerous Cohesion of the Society and the State Elite”.
There has been a historical contradiction between the state elite and the society in terms of the idealised future of country in Turkey. While the traditional state elite have directed Turkey’s face to the Western values, the Turkish society has always been keen on the Eastern and the Islamic values. In recent few years Turkey has attracted a great attention from all over the world in the context of the restructured new foreign policy. It is important to make it clear whether the state elite or the society has given up its historical long-term strategy. We argue that the state elite has changed its route and accepted the choice of the society, and tried to compromise Western institutions with traditional or Islamic values. We have conducted a survey across Turkey and concluded that Turkish people attribute pretty different meaning to terrorism comparing with USA-led Western world. According to the findings the biggest threats for both the world and Middle Eastern peaces are the USA and Israel. Turkish people have a consensus on this issue in terms of socio-political identities, socioeconomic statuses, political party preferences and ethnic identities. Changing axis of Turkish foreign policy from the West to the East has strong roots in the society and seems sustainable. This finding will be very important groundbreaking issue between Turkey and the West as long-term partners. Like many other developing or undeveloped democracies, religion and ethnicity are the main social capitals in Turkey. Turkey has never experienced enlightenment or industrial revolution as the West has done. Therefore, inborn values like religion and ethnicity are still very useful tools both for the state elite and civil politicians to manipulate and persuade people. Moderate Islam has gained room in recent years in Turkey. However, different societal sectors have quite contradictory views on fundamentalism and secularism. Kurdish separatism and Islamic fundamentalism are still the two officially determined enemies that threaten the secular regime in Turkey. We conclude that for the consolidation of democracy civil religious movements need to act freely in order to evolve in time.

Paper presenter: Talha Kose (Assistant Professor , Istanbul Sehir University, Turkey), “Turkey’s JDP and Alevi Opening: Paths Towards Identity Based Reconciliation”.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (JDP) government has recently undertaken series of steps to understand and respond to the Alevi identity based claims. Popularly known as the ‘Alevi opening’ process, is a historical turning point in terms of Turkish governments’ approaching of problems of Alevi citizens in Turkey. Alevi opening is the first systematic effort to deal with identity based discontents of Alevis. Alevi opening is also part of the broader policy of ‘democratic opening’, which intends to address burning problems of various identity groups (Kurds, Alevis, religious minorities and roman people) in Turkey. Democratic opening, also defined as a ‘national unity project’ by Prime Minister Erdo’an, aims to reconcile Turkish State and the marginalized segments of Turkish Society. Alevi opening is considered as a process of political as well as social reconciliation. The primary objective of ‘Alevi opening’ is to bridge the emotional and perceptual barriers between the Alevi citizens and the Turkish state as well as between Alevis and the Sunni citizens, thus to create an environment conducive to deeper level reconciliation. This study provides an analytic background for understanding the governing JDP’s ‘Alevi opening’ initiative, which was launched on summer of 2007. More specifically the issues that are mentioned in the list of Alevi identity based claims, obstacles to the fulfillment of these issues and the methods and the processes of the ongoing Alevi opening are elaborated. Alevi opening is still in its early stages but it has already enabled some conciliatory moves. For the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic and the Ottoman State, official authorities have acknowledged the victimhood’s and traumatic historical experiences of Alevis. A verbal apology has been voiced by the Minister of Culture on behalf of his government and the Turkish State, for the oppressions and direct violence that the Alevis had historically suffered from the central authorities. A commitment to enhancement of the Alevi requests has been clearly voiced by Prime Minister Erdo’an and his cabinet ministers. The leaders of the Alevi community and Alevi associations have been recognized by the government. A set of legal reforms are publicly discussed. This analysis states that only a holistic intervention can enable a sustainable reconciliation process between Alevis and the Turkish State establishment and Alevi and Sunni citizens. In order to provide a holistic analysis, political, legal, psychological as well as cultural dynamics of Alevi issue are emphasized here.

Paper presenter: Sule Toktas and Ali Bayram Soner (Associate Professor - Dr., Kadir Has University and Assistant Professor - Dr., Izmir University of Economics, Turkey), “Identity Politics in Turkey: the Justice and Development Party and the Alevi Rapprochement”.
The Justice and Development Party (JDP), since coming to power in 2002, has launched several reform programmes which in the previous decades were considered the red lines or bottle necks in Turkish politics. The JDP is the party that has made wide range of reforms necessary for the EU membership. This caused a complexity for students of political science as the party is the leading conservative party in the multiparty politics of Turkish party system accompanied by a wide discussion whether the JDP fell in the category of conservative parties or not. The JDP also started various policy initiatives in the sphere of international relations. The governing party aimed for Turkey’s greater involvement in Middle East, the Caucasian and Balkan affairs, mediation and arbitration role between the conflicting parties of the Middle East, peace making facilities towards Armenia and Azerbaijan and stability and security in Iraq. The Kurdish question has been another arena for the JDP to take important steps for its resolution. Last but not least, the Party, although mainly adheres to the Sunnite segments of the Turkish population, wants to attract votes from the Alevi minority and launch a rapprochement programme. This article tackles with the actors, dynamics and processes involved in the JDP's Alevi rapprochement. Each subject group - the Alevis (the leftist and the conservative wings), the General Directorate of Religious Affairs, the JDP, the National View Movement, the conservative media writers and the EU officials - is constitutive of a specific discourse and hence holding a deliberate position in the Alevi question. Therefore, each discursive unit composes the sub-sections of the discussion delivered throughout the paper. We aim to make an inquiry of the Alevi rapprochement in light of the positions, arguments and perceptions developed by each agency involved in the question.