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Archive for the ‘INTERVIEW’ Category

Interviewed by Umut Can Adısönmez (Changing Turkey Research Associate)

Ayşe Zarakol is a University Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Cambridge, with affiliations atzarakol Emmanuel College as an official fellow and the Centre for Rising Powers as a Senior Research Associate. Ayşe broadly works on East-West relations in the international system, with a focus on stigmatization and social hierarchies; problems of modernity and sovereignty; rising and declining powers; and Turkish politics in a comparative perspective (with other non-Western powers such as Russia and Japan). In addition to her book After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge UP, 2011 and in Turkish, with a new introduction, with Koç UP, 2012), she has published in journals such as International Organization, Cooperation & Conflict, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, Review of International Studies, European Journal of International Relations, and International Relations, as well as in more policy-oriented outlets (such as the Journal of Democracy) and edited books. She is currently serving on the executive committee of The Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia); the advisory board of the State-Making and the Origins of Global Order
in the Long Nineteenth Century and Beyond (STANCE) project at Lund University Sweden, as well as the journals of International Studies Review and International Relations. She is also involved in the ERC funded DIPLOFACE project led by Professor Rebecca Adler-Nissen at the University of Copenhagen. The contributions of her research have been recognised by a number of funding institutions and professional associations in the US, UK and Europe, including the designation of ‘rising star’ from the IR section of Swedish Political Science Association (SWEPSA). In 2016, Ayse was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and the Nobel Institute in Oslo.

Could you please tell us about your background and previous studies?

I grew up in Istanbul. I left when I was seventeen to attend university in the United States. I went to Middlebury College, a liberal arts college in rural Vermont where I majored in Political Science and Classical Studies. When I graduated from college I thought I wanted to go to law school (in the US law is studied at the graduate level) so I worked for a year at a law firm in New York City as a legal assistant. Realising this path was not for me, I applied in the last minute for PhD programs in Political Science, and ended up going to University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was the best last minute decision I have ever made. There I had the good fortune of studying with some great scholars, especially Michael Barnett (who left for Minnesota in the middle of my studies but stayed on as my dissertation advisor). This was a great time to be a student in Madison. Upon graduation, I got a tenure-track position in a small liberal arts college in Virginia (Washington and Lee University). After several years there and one year in Washington, DC, as Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow where I worked for the US government, I was appointed to my current permanent post as a University Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Cambridge. I am also a fellow at Emmanuel College.

 

What are the deficiencies in Turkish academic literature related to your field?

The deficiencies in Turkish IR literature mirror the deficiencies of the broader IR literature. IR is still an American dominated field. Until recently, American IR was characterised by what is called inter-paradigm debates between realism, liberalism and to some extent, constructivism. Later another major debate emerged between positivists and non-positivists, the end result of which has been an increasing divergence between American IR, which tends to be overwhelmingly positivist and European IR, which tends to be non-positivist (though not overwhelmingly so). American IR is supposed to have left “theory” behind in the sense that most recent research does not take strong paradigmatic position but is methods driven instead, to the extent of “fetishising” various statistical and experimental methods at the expense of asking big questions.  European IR, on the other hand, has become very (meta)-theoretical, to the extent that it is possible to see IR scholars who are incredibly well versed in the nuances of the writings of particular continental philosophers but have no interest in what the general public would consider IR questions.

Because many Turkish IR scholars are trained abroad, either in the US or Europe, and/or have to conform to the expectations of that literature to get published in “top” journals, which are invariably located in the US or Europe, we see the problems created by the situations I have described above replicated in the Turkish IR literature as well. The quantitative trend in the American IR literature has not quite taken hold in Turkish IR, but the paradigm-speak is very much a fact. How anyone can be familiar with Turkish politics and take the rationalist approaches of neorealism or neoliberalism to be descriptive theories of international relations is beyond me. At least in Americans defence we can say that they don’t know any better! Also, in the articles I am sent to review dealing with some aspect of Turkish politics and Turkish foreign policy, I sometimes see a very utilitarian approach to theory use – some theoretical framework is superimposed on a more nuanced case study without thinking too much about the assumptions and the implications of the theory itself.  On the flip side, the more “meta” European approaches to IR seem to give some Turkish scholars “critical” bona fides without having to go through the trouble of taking critical political stances with real world implications.

But I do not mean to come across as overly critical of Turkish IR; my colleagues in Turkey are working in difficult conditions, to put it mildly, and yet are still able to contribute in very significant ways to the broader IR literature. Turkish IR is taken very seriously in the broader discipline due to their efforts. Of the younger generations, I very much admire the works of Pinar Bilgin, Bahar Rumelili, Lerna Yanik, Sinan Birdal, Senem Aydin Duzgit, just to name a few names off the top of my head; I am leaving out many others who are also doing excellent work (my apologies in advance). These are scholars who could work anywhere in the world, yet choose to stay in Turkey. Their contributions to Turkish IR cannot be overestimated. There are also many Turkish scholars with positions abroad who are doing very interesting work: Nukhet Ahu Sandal, Kerem Nisancioglu and Karabekir Akkoyunlu are three recent examples that come to mind.

As these examples clearly demonstrate, Turkish IR actually has the potential to make very worthwhile contributions to the broader literature if freed from the shackles of working with imported theoretical templates that have no grounding in global history. Both American and European IR suffer greatly from the blind spots generated by the ahistoricism and Eurocentrism endemic in their approaches. Because those of us in or with links to Turkey are well-versed in both those literatures and a case study (Turkey!) that puts all of those assumptions to test, we are actually really well-positioned for constructing IR theories that better explain the world.

 

Could you recommend any articles or books which were recently published?

My work is more historically oriented, so the books and articles I have read recently reflect that orientation. Of recently published books, I would especially recommend: Buzan and Lawson’s The Global Transformation (CUP 2015), which deals with the significance of the nineteenth century in creating the modern international order;  Branch’s The Cartographic State (CUP 2014), which deals with the overlooked role of cartography in the creation of modern states; Anievas and Nisancioglu’s How the West Came to Rule (Chicago 2015), which contextualises the “rise of the West” in a truly global account; and Patricia Owens’  Economy of Force (CUP 2015), which provides an account of the historical rise of the “social” realm. Another great book is Phillips and Sharman’s International Order in Diversity: War, Trade and Rule in the Indian Ocean (CUP 2015). All of these books also have interesting implications for those of us interested in Turkish/Ottoman history.

Could you please tell us about your recent works and these works’ findings?

I am close to finishing a multi-year collaborative project about the reconceptualisation of the discipline of IR, called “Hierarchies in World Politics”.  An article from this project is coming out this month in International Organization, and I hope the book will be out within the year as well. The project brings together many high profile names working on hierarchies and we are arguing that the anarchy assumption that has dominated the field in the recent decades has closed off many avenues of interesting research to IR scholars.

I have two other forthcoming peer-reviewed articles this year: one article (forthcoming in Cooperation & Conflict) is about conceptualising and historicising “the state” as an ontological security providing and a short article providing a critical assessment of the TRIP surveys, which is my contribution to a forum on the state of constructivism in IR in PS. I have also co-authored a chapter with Zeynep Gulsah Capan in a forthcoming volume edited by Charlotte Epstein and titled Anti-Norms; our chapter criticises the uses of postcolonial critiques in Turkish academia and politics from a postcolonial perspective.

 

Lastly, what are your future plans in the field?

I have several items active on my research agenda at the moment. I have a long-term historical project about the politics of great power decline. I am also working on a couple of articles on non-Western experiences in state-building and conceptualisations of sovereignty. I am collaborating with Jelena Subotic on a project about the implications of nation-branding for the study of IR. I am also involved in a multi-year project led by Rebecca Adler-Nissen and funded by ERC about EU diplomacy and social media, overseeing the relations with Turkey/Russia dimension. These are some of the highlights.

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 By Umut Can ADISÖNMEZ (Research Associate)

Could you please tell us about your background and previous studies?

I am currently Assistant Professor of Modern Turkey at the Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of 13054929_10101027363571971_669607740_oGraz. Previously I was a doctoral candidate in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, where my research looked at political and institutional change in Iran and Turkey. As part of my PhD, I studied Persian at Isfahan University and conducted field work in Iran and taught courses on Middle East politics and theories of democracy and democratisation at the LSE. Before entering academia, I spent several years working as a political analyst in London and teaching English in Indonesia. I took my Bachelor’s degree in History from Brown University in the USA and M.Phil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge. My M.Phil thesis was a comparative study of military reform and democratisation in Turkey and Indonesia. I was born and raised in Istanbul and even though I haven’t lived there regularly since 2001, I travel back very frequently and try to spend at least a few months in Turkey every year.

What are the deficiencies in Turkish academic literature related to your field?

There is already a large and growing number of wonderful academics from Turkey – based both inside and outside the country – conducting impressive research in history, society and politics of the country. In Graz, I also see how young academics from Turkey are increasingly active in area studies beyond the traditional focus of Turkey-EU or Turkey-US relations. However, I still find the Turkish academic literature on the Middle East in general, and in particular on Iran, very limited. For decades, Iran was presented to Turks as a backward theocratic dystopia and I guess old habits really die hard. In reality, Iran is not only a fascinating place with a rich history, poetic language and complex socio-political structures, but it is also a crucial actor that we in Turkey need to better understand and engage with if we are to stay ahead of fast changing regional dynamics.

Could you recommend any articles or books which were recently published?

Cihan Tugal’s The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism (Verso: 2016) is a surgical, thought-provoking and damning account of why and how everything went so wrong for Turkey regionally and domestically in such short time. On Iran, I look forward to Hamid Dabashi’s Iran Without Borders: Towards a Critique of the Postcolonial Nation, which will come out (also from Verso) in August. On democratisation studies, Nancy Bermeo’s article “On Democratic Backsliding” (Journal of Democracy, Volume 27, Number 1, January 2016, pp. 5-19) sheds a new light on cases where the very institutions that democracy promoters once prioritised (such as elections) are now being used to legitimise democratic backsliding; a work with important implications for Turkey.

Could you please tell us about your recent works and your future plans in the field?

Last year, together with my colleague in Graz, Professor Kerem Öktem, we co-founded the Consortium for European Symposia on Turkey (CEST) bringing together leading European research institutions with the aim of organising annual academic events on Turkey, making the field of Turkish studies more accessible to the debates in social sciences and creating platforms of networking and visibility particularly for younger academics through publications and awards. The inaugural symposium was held in Graz in October 2015 with the title “Populism, Majoritarianism and Crises of Illiberal Democracy”. We had a fascinating two and a half days of discussion based on 20 high quality papers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and are now in the process of compiling the best papers in a special issue. The second CEST symposium is being organised by Sciences Po and will take place in Paris on 1-2 December 2016 with the theme “Politics from below in Turkey and beyond”. (You can find the Call for Papers here: https://www.facebook.com/CESTurkey/posts/621069548042745.)

I am also the managing editor of a new research blog that we launched recently at the Centre for Southeast European Studies aimed at facilitating discussion on research experiences from the wider region. We cover a range of issues and categories, including notes from archives, methodological challenges, experiences in the field and broader reflections on conducting research on the region from an interdisciplinary background. The idea is to build the blog into an open platform for researchers at all levels and disciplines. We welcome contributions and proposals from researchers everywhere: http://www.suedosteuropa.uni-graz.at/blog/index.php/submissions/

On an individual level, it’s a busy year of teaching. Presently I co-teach courses Interdisciplinary Research Methods, Political Systems in the 21st century and a two-semester lecture series on the History of Modern Turkey, from the late Ottoman Empire to Present Day. When not teaching or traveling, I am busy writing preparing the manuscript of my PhD dissertation for publication as a monograph as well as writing three academic papers ahead of conferences I will participate in this year, one on regime transformation in Turkey and two comparative political analyses of Iran and Turkey, basically offshoots of my doctoral research.

I occasionally comment on everyday politics and social issues in Turkey and its neighbourhood in forums such as Open Democracy, Huffington Post, or (in Turkey) Diken.com.tr, but lately I’ve been finding it more difficult to spare time for these types of contributions.

 

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By Umut Can Adısönmez (Research Associate)

Dr. Selver B. Şahin is an assistant professor of International Relations at Bilkent ssUniversity. She is the author of International Intervention and State-Making: How Exception Became the Norm (Routledge, 2015). She is also a research fellow of Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (TUBITAK), and the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme. Her research is focused on the forms and consequences of state-building interventions in ‘fragile’ and ‘conflict-affected’ countries. She carried out field studies in East Timor, Kosovo, Macedonia and Indonesia both independently and as part of a research team. Her research has been published in Democratization, Asian Survey, Australian Journal of International Affairs, and the Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies.

 

Could you please tell us about your background and previous studies?

I have an interdisciplinary background, with an undergraduate degree in History, master’s in International Relations (Middle East Technical University, Turkey) and a PhD in Political Science (University of Canterbury, New Zealand). In my PhD dissertation, I examined the political and societal dimensions of the UN’s involvement in the democratic reconstruction of Kosovo and East Timor as part of a process of sustainable peace-building after conflict. I have been working as an assistant professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, for two and a half years now.

What are the deficiencies in Turkish academic literature related to your field?

There is a growing intervention literature in Turkey that is, to a significant extent, focused on the use of military force in geographically closer countries such as Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan. While there is a need for diversifying the geographical focus and investigating other forms of intervention, it is equally important that researchers have developed the required expertise and level of knowledge about the society, politics, culture and history of the countries they are working on, including those located in Turkey’s immediate neighbourhood. Among other issues are little interest in using multiple perspectives and interdisciplinary research, and limited engagement with theory development. Theory, for some reason, is treated as a kind of marker of identity and it is often expected that as a researcher you should ‘belong’ to a particular IR school of thought and adopt a ‘popular’ theory or method. I personally believe that we should be able to use or combine different approaches and conceptual frameworks including from other disciplines while trying to develop our own analytical models.

A similar problem can be observed in methodology as well. Content and/or discourse analysis conducted in closed offices on campus appears to be one of the widely preferred methodological approaches. These analyses on issues ranging from foreign policy-making to terrorism and insecurity usually include case studies. The evaluations of single or multiple case countries, however, are based on little or no empirically grounded knowledge developed through the researcher’s direct exposure to the country/institutional setting s/he is examining or the conduct of other forms of field studies in accordance with the cultural/social context in the country chosen as a case study. Country or institutional expertise requires substantial exposure to and experience with their specific cultural, political and social settings.

Could you recommend any articles or books which were recently published?

To those interested in UN peace-making operations, I would like to suggest an article by John Karlsrud, formerly special assistant to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Chad. It is entitled “The UN at war: examining the consequences of peace-enforcement mandates for the UN peacekeeping operations in the CAR, the DRC and Mali” and was published in Third World Quarterly in 2015. In this paper, Karlsrud provides a good discussion of why the UN needs carefully designed instruments going beyond peacekeeping strategies to be able to better deliver essentially sensitive and challenging enforcement mandates. These mandates entail the use of force as part of stabilisation missions in war-affected countries such as Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. Another one is a 2014 book by Rosa Freedman, Failing to Protect:  The UN and the Politicisation of Human Rights, if interested in a detailed critical analysis of a prevailing contradiction between the UN’s promotion of human rights and its inability to protect many individuals from forced displacement, ethnic cleansing and other forms of abuses due to its internal politics.

Could you please tell us about your recent works and your future plans in the field?

My most recent projects include a sole-authored book, International Intervention and State-Making, published in August last year. In this book, I examine the effects of international interventions in the political and social dynamics of sovereignty in Kosovo, East Timor and Iraq. It is among my future plans to add South Sudan to my work on exceptional state-making. I have also completed a paper centring on the question of security sector reform (SSR) ownership by specific reference to the process of security sector development in Kosovo. It has just been accepted for publication. In addition to this paper, which is one of the outputs of my TUBITAK (Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council)-funded project on the processes of peace-building in the Balkans, I am currently working on two other joint research initiatives. One is a co-authored paper with my graduate assistant. In this paper, we aim to produce a contextualised analysis of the dynamics of sustainable peace in Macedonia. The other is focused on Turkey’s soft power policy towards the Balkans that is developing in partnership with a colleague from Macedonia.

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Interview with Dr. Can E. Mutlu

by Umut Can Adısönmez (Research Associate)

Can E. Mutlu is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Bilkent University’s Department of12713938_10100511422019196_616655787_nInternational Relations in Ankara, Turkey. His research interests are located at the intersection of technology, security, and political sociology of global mobility regimes. In particular, he focuses on practices, technologies, and materialities of border security and mobility. His recent research appears in Comparative European Politics, European Journal of Social Theory, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, the Review of International Studies, Critical Studies on Security, Millennium Journal of International Studies, Global Governance and International Political Sociology. He is also the co-editor of Research Methods in Critical Security Studies: An Introduction with Mark B. Salter (Routledge 2013).

 

Could you please tell us about your background and previous studies?

I did my master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Victoria, Canada both have been in Political Science. I did my Ph.D. at University of Ottawa, Canada. My Ph.D. was in International Relations (IR) but if you look specifically, it looked at border security technologies of the European Union (EU) with particular reference to ePassports and shipping containers. That is my academic formation background and since then I have been working at Bilkent University’s Department of IR. I defended my Ph.D. in July 2013 and started to work at Bilkent University in September 2013.

What are the deficiencies in Turkish academic literature related to your field? How do you think we can improve this environment in IR field?

I do not think that I can speak for the whole field of the IR in Turkey because there is quite a lot of interesting work being done in Turkey, and I am very new to this community. But more specifically, in my own work, I observe a discrepancy between, the ways that North American or European scholars do research on their countries and how it becomes “IR,” yet when Turkish scholars do research on Turkey, these studies become an area studies or “comparative politics”. In the past two years, I aimed to bridge this gap in my own work by looking at Turkey as a moment/space of/in intentional politics. But, I do not really do research on Turkish politics, however, in line with my own interest, with a PhD student of mine, we have been looking at biometric technologies surrounding sort of the Syrian migrants in Turkey such as what kind of identification technologies are being imposed on them. So, that is one of the research projects that I have been pursuing. When it comes to answering the question, then I try to connect Turkey to the International by looking at how these “things” that we study as part of the discipline play out in Turkey. I think that’s one of the things missing from Turkish IR. On the one hand, we try to create Turkish IR theories and I think that for the most part these works do not interact with the existing literatures. On the other hand, it is also safe to say that we are not “theorizing” enough, we just create empirical applications for existing theories. So in my own work, I am trying to write empirically grounded yet theoretically informed works that take my empirical examples not just as cases, but also as integral parts of the international.

Could you recommend any articles or books which were recently published in Turkey or in International academics?

I do a lot of work in International Political Sociology so I can recommend one book which I found recently to be really well-written and though provoking: Patricia Owens’s new book “Economy of Force: Counterinsurgency and the Historical Rise of the Social” published in 2015. But the best book which I read recently was Deborah Cowen’s book of “The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in the Global Trade” which was published in 2012. It came out from the University of Minnesota Press. And another edited volume, in addition to this, that I can recommend is also from the University of Minnesota Press is the two volumes of “Making Things International” by Mark B. Salter. These books are really trying to bring in the material aspects of IR such as technology, object-oriented ontology to the debates on international relations. I think these books are the central books that are forming my research in these days.

Could you please tell us about your recent works and your future plans in the field?

I have been working on two strands in my research. One is on research methods, for that, I had an edited volume out of Routledge in 2013 on research methods and critical security studies. Since then, I have published more on that research agenda in a form in Critical studies on Security, and two more articles in Millennium Journal of International Studies all looked at the question of methods, methodology and research design in IR. As a second strand, I have been working a lot on the border security and I have two articles to be published soon. One is coming in Global Governance, which looks what we call as “Social Life of Data” and how EU statistics of the external borders are created and what kind of social process they go through in their life cycle. Another one is coming out in International Political Sociology that looks at how changes in border technology in border practices are having an impact on border architecture. So, how border and spaces like the airports or land border crossing are changing because of technological innovations can be labelled as architectural security studies. Both of these articles are co-authored. Now, I have two articles I am working on. One is coming from my Ph.D. thesis and focusing on how our understandings of critical security studies can inform the security communities literature. This is something I call “insecurity communities.” In the next few years, I am planning to continue my studies on architectural design and security and the combination of these two, combining them with my interest in algorithms and databases. I sort of created my post-Ph.D. career in these two fields. Plus, we are editing another book on methods and critical IR with Mark Salter. It will be probably coming out within two years or so. Finally, I am finishing my own book, which is dealing with objects and security and I will keep working on borders, architecture, design, and security in the next five years.

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by Umut Can Adısönmez (Research Associate)

Ali BilgicAli Bilgiç is Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, Bilkent University, Ankara. His research interests include critical approaches to security, feminist security studies, social movements, Turkey’s foreign policy, and the European Union’s external relations. He is the author of Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration: Trust and Emancipation in Europe (Routledge, 2013), and Turkey, Power and the West: Gendered International Relations and Foreign Policy (I.B. Tauris, 2016). His articles have appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Security Dialogue, Review of International Studies, International Relations, Eurasia Geography and Economics (co-authored), Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies and International Migration. He is currently co-investigator in a project entitled ‘Exploring Civil Society Strategies for Democratic Renewal’, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). In addition, he is an Associate Researcher in a British Academy-funded project entitled ‘Alliances and Trust-building in International Politics’.

Could you please tell us about your background and previous studies?

Since 2011 I have been Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, Bilkent University, Ankara. I completed my PhD at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, in 2010. My PhD thesis engaged with irregular migration to Europe, and focused on how EU policies against irregular migration produce insecurities for both EU citizens and irregular migrants, namely the group that includes potential refugees. Prior to my PhD, I completed a Master’s degree in European Politics at the University of Lund, Sweden. I wrote my MA dissertation on the securitization of migration across three comparative case studies.

What are the deficiencies in Turkish academic literature related to your field?

International Relations (IR) scholarship is relatively recent in Turkey, but it has developed immensely in the last two decades, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Once dominated by diplomatic history, Turkey’s IR scholarship is now producing theoretically-informed analyses with rich empirical cases. Notably, the increase in the number of students from Turkey who obtained their PhDs from North American and European universities has positively affected IR in Turkey.

That said, I cannot claim that theoretical diversity is fully reflected in the scholarship. For example, postcolonial studies did not exist until recently. This is very interesting, given that Turkey has itself been subjected to certain dynamics of colonial relations, although it has never been colonized itself. Another lacking area in Turkey is that of feminist international relations. This is one of the reasons why I have directed my research to this area. It is of utmost importance to maintain disciplinary diversity and pluralism in order to prevent gatekeepers from deciding what constitutes IR knowledge in a manner of ‘feudal lords’. This is also a matter of academic freedom.

Another problem I have observed in certain segments of Turkey’s academic literature is ideologically-loaded arguments. This is partly because of the current domestic political situation that pushes people to take sides; it also pushes different groups to read and pick the part of the work that fits their respective ideological stances. I think we have a long way to go to handle this issue.

Could you recommend any articles or books that were published recently?

One of my favourite recently-published books is Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World, edited by Maha El Said, Lena Meari, and Nicola Pratt. The collection explores how gender and sexuality politics work in revolutionary processes and/or through resistance, the performative role of gender in politics, and how women generate resistance strategies against patriarchy, militarism, violence, and fundamentalism. I particularly enjoy reading this type of work that brings politics down from the clouds and firmly to the ground. International politics produces and is produced by individuals in their daily lives; it shapes our lives, our choices, and our future as members of a global human community. Feminist IR, for me, is the best approach that internalizes this explicitly normative and political idea.

Could you please tell us about your recent work and your future plans in the field?

My research concentrates on interdisciplinary applications of feminist theories. I analyse global West/non-West relations from the perspective of feminist post-colonialism. Stemming from this theoretical perspective, I have been examining Turkey’s relations with the West and non-West for the first time in the literature. This perspective is applied in my second book, Turkey, Power and the West: Gendered International Relations and Foreign Policy (IB Tauris, 2016). In addition, I applied this perspective in scholarly articles on Turkey–Greece relations (International Relations, 2015) and on Euro-Mediterranean security relations after the Arab Spring (Mediterranean Politics, 2015).

The second area of my research is trust-building as a way to construct common security in inter-societal conflicts. In my first book, Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration: Trust and Emancipation in Europe (Routledge, 2013), I developed a theoretical perspective with reference to the ways of trust-learning between irregular migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and local communities in Europe. My work on trust has inspired me to study the role of emotions in politics in general.

I am currently working on global social resistance movements with specific reference to how women and members of LGBTQI claim their political power through these resistance movements. I am particularly interested in how feminist intersectionality can be rethought in the light of the insights of post-Marxist approaches.

I believe that these three areas will continue to dominate my research agenda.

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INTERVIEW WITH DR EVREN ALTINKAS

Dr. Evren Altınkaş graduated from the International Relations Department of Dokuz Eylül University. Healtınkas received postgraduate degrees from King’s College London in 2000 and Dokuz Eylül University in 2003 where he studied on the issue of Cyprus. He obtained his doctoral degree from Dokuz Eylül University in 2011 based on his dissertation comparing the development of the concept of intellectuals in Europe and in Turkey. He worked as an Assistant Professor in Avrasya University (2012-2013), Artvin Coruh University (2013-2014) and Girne American University (2014-2015). Altınkaş has several published articles in academic journals and book chapters. His research areas are Middle Eastern History, Turkish Politics, Comparative History, International Law, Cyprus problem and Intellectual History. He is currently continuing his academic research as an independent scholar.

CHANGINGTURKEY: Could you inform our readers about your recent and forthcoming publications? What are the main arguments that you defend in your recent works?

My recent work concentrates on the role of social media in the development of new politics. One of the objectives of this study is to develop a theory of “social media as a fifth force in politics”, by focusing on the concept of social media with an emphasis on “the sphere where public meet and organize”. The traditional conceptualization of the forces in politics is counted as “legislative, executive and judiciary”, with a popular addition of “media” as the fourth force, since it serves mainly as a mediator between the government and the people. Etymologically, it is easier to describe televisions, newspapers and radios as “mediators” between the people and the government as they transmit messages from one to the other. People use media as a channel to reach out to the government and express their demands, views and comments about governmental policies. Also, the government uses media to inform people about its new policies, regulations and actions. But, with the intensification of social media and Internet, we are witnessing the emergence of a new sphere where people from different parts of the country and the world can interact and even develop a general and shared attitude. This is something completely different from “public sphere” or “public opinion” in its nature. New media, social media and online networking services like Twitter and Facebook for instance have allowed a big number of individuals to organize and discuss social change completely outside the borders of a nation. Just like Gutenberg’s Bible first brought literacy to the masses, social media has brought the power of self-organization to people on a transnational basis.

I discussed the main tenets of social media emerging as a new force in domestic and international politics in my opinion paper published by the 21st Century Turkey Institute. For instance, the Immigration Law issued in France and in some other EU countries have gradually caused a decrease in the amount of skilled migrants from North Africa to EU countries, and those skilled university graduates who have organized through social media were actually the main dynamics behind the Arab Spring.

The Occupy movement is another example. What began in New York City has spread to cities across the United States and to the rest of the world. While protests against monetary policy spring up from time to time, the fact that these spread out movements have all decided to unite under the banner of the “Occupy” movement speaks volumes for the effects of social media and the Internet. In fact, many in the Occupy movement point to Egypt as their inspiration, which is even more astonishing for a number of reasons. One is the massive income disparity among protestors in Cairo and those in New York. While relative income in these nations is vastly different, citizens in both Egypt and the United States similarly protest their national elites in their respective nations. Another obvious reason that such a connection is astounding is because of the very nature of having protests in countries that are so far away from each other. It can easily be said that this is not the first time citizens in one locale, having heard of protests in another land, have been inspired to do the same, but in no other time in history, can such communication of revolution be accessed instantly by both parties.  Now, as Embassies across the world are monitoring Twitter accounts and informing one another of various calls for protest, the power (at least the power of first-access to information) has shifted in favor of the people. The important distinctive character of social media from public sphere and public opinion is the possibility of participation in social media from all parts of a society, including even the government officials. A very recent example in Turkey, the Gezi Park Protests showed us that social media was able to cause a lot of problems for national government. Turkish Prime Minister named social media as a “trouble” while criticizing its role in the organization of protests. But, interestingly, the Turkish Prime Minister, the Mayor of the Istanbul, the Mayor of Ankara and many officials from the government have all used social media as a tool to eradicate the effects of Gezi Park protests on public opinion.

It is very important to analyze the role of social media as a political force in society, which helps to improve the democracy. As Aristotle put it thousands of years ago, “democracy” is the corrupt form of the “polity”. Aristotle said that people who cannot rule themselves directly consider “democracy” as the only viable form of governance, which in turn leads to corrupt forms of leadership and government. In our modern world, direct democracy is almost impossible with some exceptions in certain Swiss cantons. Yet, with the help of social media and its role in letting people express their ideas directly to their peers and to officials who are also members of this huge network; it may be possible for people to have a chance to rule themselves directly. This process may start with criticizing some negative aspects about parliamentarian democracy and end with criticizing the “elected” parliamentarians who content themselves by voting for the Bills according to the will of their party leaders instead of the people.

Overall, my research aims to underline the importance of “people” in politics, with a specific reference to the rising role of social media both in society and in political life. The project has two dimensions: One is a comparison among Egypt, Turkey and other parts of the world where social media was used as a very effective tool to organize social movements, and the second dimension of my research is a historical comparison between the rise of “public sphere” as an area of social involvement – and inclusion into the political system with a chance of directly affecting the decision-makers – and the current role of social media which has the same effect in a direct or indirect manner.

CHANGINGTURKEY: What are the potential limitations of the existing analyses on Turkish politics and society, in your opinion? Could you suggest any gaps in the literature or any potential pitfalls?

In my opinion, one of the most important limitations we face while studying Turkish politics and society is a lack of objectivity. Competing tendencies that either accept or reject the Ottoman tradition in Turkish politics and history bring a huge problem. Turkish academia is highly polarized. For instance, in one of my publications, namely, “Intellectuals in the Early Republican Era: Elites of the Founding Ideology” (Article published at the refereed journal of CTAD, Year 7, Issue 14, Fall 2011) I used the term of “Kemalism” to define the ideology which predominated the early Republican era. Because of this, I have received criticisms from some prominent academics that using that term was too ideological. On the other hand, when I published another article on Ottoman intellectuals claiming that the intellectual tradition of the Ottoman era had huge impacts on Turkish intellectuals, a new set of criticisms I received was mainly about my emphasis on Ottoman intellectuals, which was seen by some other prominent academics as a praise to Ottomans and therefore unacceptable. When we look at the literature, the gap can be summarized as the combination of such disagreements I have tried to explain above. A detailed research on the sociological structure of Turkey needs to be conducted as we generally do not have much idea about sociology, traditions, family relations of Turkish “gemeinschaft” –following the conceptualization of Tönnies.

CHANGINGTURKEY: What is the best manuscript(s) you’ve read on Turkish politics and society so far? Could you suggest our readers any Turkey-focused research you have found valuable?

As a scholar of Turkish politics and history, I consider two manuscripts as particularly important. These may sound very familiar to your readers: Feroz Ahmad’s “The Making of Modern Turkey”, and Erik J. Zürcher’s “Turkey: A Modern History”.

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Özlem Kayhan Pusane (Işık University, İstanbul, Turkey)

Özlem Kayhan Pusane graduated from the Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey) in 2002 with a B.Sc. degree in International Relations. She received her M.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Turkish_StudiesNotre Dame, IN, USA in 2004, where she also received her Ph.D. degree in Political Science in 2009. She is currently an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Işık University. Her research and teaching interests lie in the areas of security studies, civil-military relations, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and foreign policy analysis.

 

Changing Turkey: Could you inform our readers about your recent and forthcoming publications? What are the main arguments that you defend in your recent works?

I have been working on two major lines of research, namely the PKK and the Kurdish question within the framework of counterinsurgency scholarship and foreign policy analysis. I published a piece about the 2009 Kurdish Opening in the Spring 2014 issue of the Turkish Studies, where I discussed some of the major reasons why the government’s Kurdish opening policy did not go as planned in 2009. In this article, I argued that an important reason why the Kurdish opening could not lead to the desired policy outcomes in 2009 was that both the Turkish state and the PKK were not able to act as unified actors in this process. I also have a recent article in Uluslararası İlişkiler [International Relations], which is published in Turkish. In my article titled “Türkiye’nin Kürt Sorunu: Arap Baharı ile Değişen Yurt içi ve Bölgesel Dinamikler” [Turkey’s Kurdish Question: Changing Domestic and Regional Dynamics Through the Arab Spring], I presented an assessment about how the Arab Spring had an impact on the Kurdish question mainly within the context of the PKK’s decision making processes.

My forthcoming article titled “Turkey’s Military Victory over the PKK and Its Failure to end the PKK Insurgency” is actually part of a comparative study on counterinsurgency, which was funded by a Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant between 2010 and 2014. The paper explores the reasons why Turkey could not end the PKK insurgency although it significantly weakened the organization by the late 1990s.

In addition to my studies on the Kurdish question, foreign policy analysis is a newly emerging research interest for me. In connection to a new research project funded by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), I am now working on understanding the role of individual leadership in Turkey’s foreign policy change towards northern Iraq. With this research project, I am trying to expand my research and teaching interests towards the foreign policy dimension of security.

Changing Turkey: What are the potential limitations of the existing analyses on Turkish politics and society, in your opinion?

I believe that the limitations of the existing analyses are mostly methodological. We need to take advantage of the various qualitative and quantitative research methods more, which will help us develop a better understanding of Turkish domestic and foreign policy. We also need to do a better job of studying Turkey in comparative perspective.

Changing Turkey: Could you suggest any valuable books or articles about Turkish society and politics? Is there anything you would like to add?

It is hard to make specific suggestions since there have been an increasing number of interesting publications about Turkish society, domestic politics, and foreign policy in recent years. However, in my area of research, I highly recommend Metin Heper’s book The State and Kurds in Turkey: The Question of Assimilation, Cengiz Çandar’s TESEV Report titled ‘Leaving the Mountain: How May the PKK Lay Down Arms? Freeing the Kurdish Question from Violence, Ayşe Gül Altınay’s The Myth of the Military-Nation: Militarism, Gender, and Education in Turkey, and the 2011 Special Issue of Turkish Studies on Civil-Military Relations in Turkey.

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