Büşra Arı: The Politics of Poverty in Turkey: Managing Poverty through Economic and Social Planning (1950-1980)

This research aims to analyze poverty and how it can be most appropriately defined in the context of Turkey between the years 1950-1980. The concept of poverty has far ranging implications, which must be examined in order to understand a natural phenomenon that became visible as a social, economical and political issue. In the case of Turkey, poverty arose as a result of a series of wars and the political events that followed in the early Republican era. However, as of the 1950s, the prosperity of the newly rising trade, industry, and urbanization initiate a new era in defining poverty. The study outlines the new relations between the urban and the rural, then unveils the extent of how, in this new and uncertain environment, poverty manifested itself in the loss of ability to direct society consistently. This was a change that could be explained with reference to such factors as “agricultural mechanization”, “migration”, “industrialization” and “changing structure in the socio-economic status”. The study also highlights the political instability, cultural and ideological polarization in terms of growing law and order problems, political oppression, and major violations of human rights, which increased riots and strikes in the 1970s. This has brought a realization that poverty was one of the most central objectives. Following this political scene, the welfare state reinforced itself. Social services, education, housing, tax policy- all carried the weight of the poverty question. At the end of the period, poverty was still yet to be eliminated, substantial improvements in the disparity were not seen and many remained disappointed. While the approaches to poverty in the society are considered to be polarized, the underlying premise of this research is; How, then, can the question of poverty as a socio-economic and political issue be explained?


Zeynep Bursa: The “collective intellectual” at the origin of the conservative turn in Turkey: Prosopographic Study of the members of Intellectuals’ Heart (Aydınlar Ocağı)

The Intellectuals' Heart, positioned as more than a think-tank or a simple circle of intellectual socialization, has endowed the Turkish state with a doctrine named “Turkish-Islamic synthesis,” which allowed it to restructure itself on a religious and nationalist basis after the coup d'état of 1980. Very regarding the conditions of membership, it has remained ultra-elitist: all its presidents so far have been university professors. Originally composed of 56 (in 1970), the number of its members reached only 100 in almost 20 years.

At the beginning of my research, I was convinced that the creation of a repertory of members of the Intellectuals’ Heart was a prerequisite for the development of a problematic. Indeed, in the literature, there has been no study that is devoted solely to the Intellectuals’ Heart to its ideas or its political activities, even though a good part of the books and articles tackling the coup d'état of 1980 deals with its role. Therefore, I concluded a prosopographic approach was necessary to explain the organizational capacity of this relatively small association and to analyse how these intellectuals managed to build a political and intellectual network integrating quite a diverse population of political actors, including the leaders of right-wing political parties, renowned academics, the best hopes of nationalist youth, and even the members of the Armed Forces and the institutions of the Turkish bourgeoisie.

This research is based on the collection of all written and visual resources of each founding member of this association (biographies, memories, their books and articles in newspapers and journals, their translations, speeches, personal archives like photographs, letters, notes) and also draws on in-depth interviews I conducted with the members of this association who are between 80 and 90 years old today. 


Adnan Çelik: Kurdish Transnational Political Activism between the Western Europe and the Communist World in the Early Cold War (1945-1970)

The existing literature on the rise and spread of Kurdish activism in Turkey in the 1960s focuses on mostly three dynamics: (1) migration of landless peasants to big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, (2) the increasing rate of education among the Kurdish youth and their growing relationship with the Turkish left, and (3) the influence of the Kurdish liberation movement in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although admittedly these three factors played an important role in the revival of the Kurdish movement in the 1960s, the impact of Kurdish political and cultural activism of the Kurdish students, intellectuals and refugees in Western and Eastern Europe on Kurds of Turkey is ignored or understudied at the best. Similarly, the Soviet Kurdish policy and the impact of Soviet’s Kurdology on the resurgence in the Kurdish cultural and the political sphere of Turkey’s Kurdistan were significant. Anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and national independence-liberation movements, whose knowledge largely disseminated through the contacts and publications of the Kurds in Europe, reached the Kurds of Turkey and influenced the political discourse there. Therefore, it is not surprising to see in the intelligence reports of the Turkish state that Kurdish activism in Europe and the Soviet Union was regarded as a great danger and many attempts were made to dissolve this network.

In my postdoctoral research, I focus on the Kurds of Turkey in the early Cold War years and pay particular attention to the influence of the Kurds in Europe and the Kurdology in the Soviet Union on the politicization and the formation of political awareness as well as the horizon of the future of the Kurdish movement in Turkey. To this end, I rely on a number of archives (private and institutional) in European countries manifesting us that in the early Cold War period (1945-1970) there was a strong network of infrapolitics among the Kurds in Turkey, in Western Europe and in the USSR.

Nikos Christofis: The Eastern Mediterranean Left over Cyprus: Socialism, Nationalism and Anti-Imperialism

This project aims to scrutinize the issue of Cyprus through the perspective of the Eastern Mediterranean Left during the first three decades of the Cold War (1940s-1970s). In particular, the project adopts a comparative historical analysis approach, and seeks to pinpoint similarities and differences across the leftist movements in Greece (United Democratic Left, EDA), Turkey (Türkiye İşçi Partisi, TİP), and Cyprus (Progressive Party of Working People, AKEL). It also seeks to scrutinize and problematize the troubling relation between Marxism and nationalism and how left-wing parties behave when the nation is at stake. The project compares the case studies directly, but also across comparable historical phases. Without becoming explicitly apparent, certain key stages and events are highly significant and prove crucial in markedly shifting the discourses and practices of the mentioned parties. These are defined by numerous factors: the emergence and development of the Cyprus Question; developments within the respective states; the Cold War environment; and the political decisions made within the international communist movement, all of which the project holds central to its analysis. What is more, it is these very same factors that shape and define the political rhetoric and strategy of the parties under study.

Hüseyin Ҫiçek: Islam and Cold War. The Politicization of Islam in Kemalist-secular and Islamic-conservative weekly papers from 1952 to 1960

An analysis of the history of Turkish interdependence of secular and religious political discourse in the 1950s against the background of the formative phase of the Cold War is a desideratum in the research about Turkey, in particular regarding inner-Turkish discussions in leading weekly newspapers such as AKIS and Sebilürreşad. Right from the beginning, the Truman-Doctrine relied on freedom of religion in the confrontation with the atheistic USSR and thus created a completely new political constellation in Turkey. As an ally of the capitalist West it was no longer able to maintain the Kemalistic containment of Islam and thus enabled the emergence of a flexible understanding of Turkish Islam and Kemalism.

The research project uses methods of discourse analysis based on the sociology of knowledge (Keller 2006 et al.) and examines pertinent Kemalistic-secular and Islamic-conservative weekly newspapers such as AKIS and Sebilürreşad in order to point out the changes in its’ authors relationships and arguments in the context of the 1950s’ Cold War and to contribute to a new focus in the field of Turkish studies. At the center of the analysis are the alliances and the disagreements of religiously conservative and state supporting secular publicists in the government administration, who constructed common codes of political togetherness during the 1950s and thus had to renegotiate the Turkish understanding of religiosity, collectivity and identity in the antagonistic environment of the Cold War. The project is premised on the thesis that this kind of research focus makes it possible to avoid the dichotomy Kemalism vs. Islamists and instead understand their history of coalition buildings.

Léa Delmaire: Rise and fall of a public issue. Anti-tuberculosis fight in Turkey (mid-1940s to mid-1970s)

In my thesis I aim to understand how tuberculosis gained and lost its status of "a major public problem" in the context of Republican Turkey. Using both Turkish and international archives and printed sources, my study starts from the mid-1940s, when tuberculosis began to be the number one sanitary problem in Turkey and goes until the mid-1970s. During the latter tuberculosis, even if it still existing, faded out to not being perceived as a major public problem anymore, not even an important sanitary problem, but was gradually replaced by cancer, cardiovascular diseases and the like. This period under study also corresponds to the time of the establishment of anti-tuberculosis policies, since the creation of a public problem can only be understood in connection with the advent of the public policies aiming at solving it. Challenging the mainstream historiography, my work shows that not only the state but various actors were involved in the creation and shaping of these anti-tuberculosis policies, the main ones being anti-tuberculosis associations and the World Health Organization. As a consequence, a great variety of differing conceptualizations of the disease coexisted. Studying a "social disease" like tuberculosis sheds light on the Turkish society of the time, and helps to understand the formation of the Turkish State "from below". At the same time, it touches upon more global phenomenon like the rise of international health policies.

Ceren Deniz: Challenging the ‘meta-narrative’ on Turkish secularism in the past and today

Up until recent past, a particular reading of the Turkish republican history has become a near hegemonic ‘meta-narrative’. Originally inspired by the work of Şerif Mardin (1973), the republican history of Turkey and its modernization starting in the late Ottoman period is often narrated in continuum as a struggle of Muslim society against the secular state, latter constituting the sociological and political ‘center’ and the former ‘the periphery.’ This ‘meta-narrative’ has also been central to how scholars discuss secularization in Turkey. For critiques of secularization, the secular state was hostile to religion and tried to remove it from the public sphere. Hence, the secular state was challenged by the Muslims who hold the democratizing potential that is often equated with religious expansionism.

Many anthropologists specialized in Turkey drew a different picture, portraying how Islamic and republican ideas are well integrated by accommodating similar values, whether capitalist or traditional. Numerous studies have shown that Islam has a vital role in the organization of the social life and of education, also in governance. Many others have highlighted that Turkish national identity is intertwined with Islam. However, these findings are rarely observed by the ‘meta-narrative’, which has survived until today.

The legitimacy of the AKP rule since 2002 also relies heavily on this ‘meta-narrative’ and yet its promise for democracy has failed its long- and short-term allies including factions of Islamists, despite the ever-growing religious expansionism. Hence, more scholars have started to question the ‘meta-narrative,’ revealing historical and up to date evidence that the ‘secular’ state actually controlled Islam and promoted Sunni majoritarianism and secular or pious people are not entirely antagonistic to each other or to the state nor they are natural allies of respective political movements. A look at the historical trajectory of Turkish secularism (laiklik) also showed that it was not a stable principle all along but was vulnerable to political changes since the foundation of the republic. However, counter-perspectives and findings have not yet been able to shatter the hegemonic status of the cannon.

The initial aim of this project is to make an inventory of the scholarly works mainly in the field of republican history but also in sociology of contemporary Turkey that challenge the ‘meta-narrative’ and transcend the former dichotomies with research-based evidence and alternative theoretical frameworks. This will form the basis of the analysis of my own ethnographic fieldwork in central Anatolia focusing on the role of religiosity and values in economic relations of medium-size business owners. The inventory and my own ethnographic work are intended to stimulate a debate on the alternative ways of thinking state vs. society and center vs. periphery relations in Turkey among the contributors of the ‘Contemporary History of Turkey Network’ and learn from the exchange with scholars working on Turkey.

Deniz Coşan Eke: Emotions in the Political Discourses in Turkey, (1980-2000)

The relationship between politics and emotions concerning Turkish history has been an unexplored field. Since emotions are defined as personal and fluid, it is hard to gauge the multifaceted relationship, its features, and effects in politics. However, it is maintained that emotions can influence collective memory of communities and societies, and even more so, they appear as a widely neglected tool in “making history” by involved political actors. For this reason, political parties develop discourses that create a feeling that will affect more voters and enable them to reach their goals in a short time. In my current research project at the University of Vienna, I analyze election propaganda and political statements in the media between 1980s and 2000s from the angle of the emotional history-approach. The study includes interdisciplinary approaches, among them the sociology of emotions, anthropology of emotions, political psychology, and media studies on political party discourse. The research project aims to analyze the functions and effects of emotions in Turkish political life between 1980s-2000s, rather than what emotions were in politics. Emotions (e.g., fear, victimization, anger, etc.) have effects on political life in Turkey in terms of motivating, directing and legitimizing effects. This project aims to contribute to the existing debates on the functioning of the concept of democracy in Turkey by analyzing the emotions and reactions in society against the politicians and the political system together.

Lucie Drechselová: Gender and Generation: an intersectional analysis of generational belonging in Turkey

The project is situated at the intersection of gendergeneration and memory. It analyses political generations as a conceptual category anchored in sociology and memory studies but also as a lived reality in Turkey, locating them through their present time positionality rather than their (glorious) past. While most of the research tends to focus on the long 1968 (68liler), this project includes also the ‘78ters, situated as the (very different) offspring of the 1968 movement but also marked by the repression of the 1980 military coup, dismantling activist structures and unleashing widespread state-sponsored violence.

Veteran activists belonging to Turkey’s two political generations continue to be influential memory agents and are also prolific memoir-writers. However, the memoir-authors are overwhelmingly male which feeds into the widely accepted narrative about women’s absence from generational memory production. The project identifies the roots of women’s marginalisation but doesn’t stop there. It looks for women’s memory where it actually is: in alternative formats and in spoken life stories. Through the articulation of published autobiographies and 50 sociological interviews with veteran female activists, the project intends to tell a different story about women’s (absence from) memory of activism since 1960s.    

Its key assertion is that gender has become the key to understand not only the individual negotiations of generational belonging in the present time but also that it represents the key lens to shape autobiographical remembering with the potential to introduce cracks in the generational narrative as a whole. Looking into the most recent memoirs published by the veteran male activists, the project seeks to demonstrate that thanks to proliferation of women’s autobiographies and to the feminist re-readings of past inequalities in activists structures it is no longer possible for men activists to ignore the gendered division of activist labour.

Selin Bengi Gümrükçü: Protest and Politics in Turkey in the 1970s 

I currently work on a book project based on my PhD dissertation, focusing on collective action in Turkey during the 1970s. Examining the protests of the decade as a cycle of protest, my aim is to understand the background and historical continuities between different waves of protests, in order to fully understand the culture and dynamics of protest mobilization in Turkey. My book provides this, by revealing the dynamics of protests in Turkey in the 1970s, namely the actors, their repertoires of action, their goals, and aims. Given the dearth of previous research on social movements in Turkey in the 1970s, I had to innovate, both theoretically and empirically. I developed an original framework to understand the actors, the forms of action used, and the reasons for mobilization which focuses on the dynamics of the relationship between social movements and the state. I then undertook a detailed analysis of the two main dynamics of the cycle of protests: those of institutionalization, referring to the process of movements transforming into parties and/or adopting more conventional forms of protests, and radicalization, referring to increased use of violence and disappearance of conventional organizations from the mobilizations. My study also aims to reveal the dynamics of interaction between social movements and the state, focusing on state repression, and between mobilization and countermobilization focusing on right-wing, ultra-nationalist movement of the “Grey Wolves”. Employing Protest Event Analysis by using national newspaper archives, I am using an original dataset of 5,361 protest events taking place in Turkey from 1971 to 1985 that I generated during my PhD.


Funda Hülagu: Women Intellectuals, Utopian Thinking and Communist Movement(s) in Turkey: A Critical Appraisal 

During the 20th century, women intellectuals were an indispensable part of the progressive and leftist movements in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Some of them were pioneers in their artistic or literary production. Others were “activist-scholars”. Nonetheless, the “heroes” of the leftist and progressive movements in the MENA have nearly always been intellectual men, whose products have been considered as the lynchpin of progressive and indeed utopian thinking in this region. This study first aims at bringing back women intellectuals to the history of leftist movements in the MENA region with an exclusive focus on Turkey and especially on communist (and socialist-leftist) movements in Turkey. Although there has recently been a growing interest in life and products of many women writers (such as the growing interest in the literary production of novelist Suat Derviş) and scholars (such as the detailed bibliographical work(s) on sociologist Behice Boran) associated by the communist movement, the need to problematize the relation of these women intellectuals to the broader communist and leftist intellectual field[s] of Turkey remain a scholarly task ahead. Therefore, a second aim of this study is to contextualize women intellectuals, and investigate their standpoint within the mentioned fields. The non-conformity of these women intellectuals with male-dominated leftist circles has never been a secret, and yet the very political and ideological character of these non-conformists have always been sidelined, trivialized or even degraded. On the other hand, many women intellectuals appear to stay more committed to the utopian cause of the communist movement(s) rather to than the everyday politics or political strategies that do [generally] jeopardize the utopian roots of these movements.  The utopian thinking and commitment of these women intellectuals awaits not only to be recognized but also to be expounded. For the class backgrounds of these women; their relation to society at large; their position vis-a-vis “state feminism” in Turkey display non-negligible similarities to other women intellectuals in the MENA region. Finally, to deepen the main theme and the associated sub-questions of this research, the study will especially focus on the writings and activism of Suat Derviş, Behice Boran and Oya Baydar, but not to the detriment of others whose production was (sometimes) much limited and yet activism was broader and/or vice-versa. Therefore, the study will also dig into the agency of intellectual women such as Halet Çambel, Beria Önder and Reha İsvan, the industrious workers of the principle of hope.

Sevil Ҫakır Kılınçoğlu: An Oral History of Leftist Guerrilla Women in Iran and Turkey during the 1960s and 1970s

My research interests revolve around political violence, contentious politics, gender and life history. I am specifically interested in how individuals get involved in high-risk activism in particular and decide to engage in risky or violent activities in general. As a study of women’s participation and experiences in the radical leftist organizations which adopted armed struggle in Turkey and Iran during the 1970s, my dissertation project compares the two cases by employing concepts from the social movement studies and the life history method with gender in mind in line with relational and processual perspectives. My fieldwork was based on semi-structured life history interviews that I conducted with Turkish and Iranian women living in various countries in Europe including Turkey, Germany, France, and Sweden. During the fieldwork, I acquired practical experience with people from diverse backgrounds, ages and ranks; while exploring various methodological approaches to contextualize and historicize their narratives. For triangulation of my findings from the fieldwork, primary sources, and secondary literature, I studied various approaches to qualitative analysis. Consequently, I have become an ardent believer in the potential of not only interdisciplinary and multi-methods research but also biographical research to improve our understandings of various complex social, cultural and political phenomena.


Barış Alp Özden: Working Class Formation in Turkey, 1946-1962

This research explores the everyday experiences and changing meanings workers attached to their living and working conditions in Turkey between the end of the Second World War and the early 1960s. A primary target of this project is to explore the politics and ideologies of class as important elements of the historical process from big cities and weaving mills to national domains of social regulation, labor law and trade union policy. The working class appears to have been an active force and also a point of contention during the period which witnessed the dislocation of many producers from agrarian economy to industrial work in urban centers and with the visible expansion of wage labor.

One of the inspirations of this project is specified as the conception of everydayness as an effort to question large structural generalizations and recover specificity. This outlook guided the discussion on the local and quotidian contexts such as the housing conditions in big cities and the new leisure pursuits of working people in which the possibilities of class solidarity were created. In a similar vein, the changing regimes of industrial discipline and its impact on working class identity and culture in specific industries and individual workplaces are discussed in order to recover the diversity of workers’ experiences, on the one hand, and to detect elements of resistance and collective action, on the other. The study also aims to provide a discussion of the rich terrain of conflict between the state and workers’ associations as well as among the latter on the boundaries of class, changing meanings of labor and the role of the associational activity.   

Berna Pekesen: Left-wing authoritarianism in Turkey, 1960-1990

This project aims to provide a collective biography of the left-wing politicized generation of the 1960s and 1970s in Turkey with a special focus on the phenomenon of left-wing violence. By combining a generational and social milieu approach the project analyzes the social, regional and gender backgrounds of leftist protagonists in the indicated period. The project holds the hypothesis of a "leftist authoritarian habitus", analyses its expression and impacts, as well as the question how it manifested itself in the social relations within the groups. In doing so, the project aims to determine the conflict between traditional attitudes and "revolutionary" deeds among the radical leftist groups.

Caner Tekin: History of Turkish Migrant Organizations in Comparison: Interactions between Generations and Gender Groups

In regard to migration from Turkey migrant organisations receive relatively little attention in historical inquiries to social movements. Seminal studies examine migrant associations’ current social and political interests, but the cultural change within the migrant movements has not been sufficiently discussed. As a critical example, the literature notes the ‘identity shifts’ of certain religious and nationalist migrant umbrella organisations towards 'a more liberal and integrated Islam' in the early 2000s, especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11th in the USA and their traumatic effects on German public opinion. What cultural changes have contributed to these shifts, however, remains unanswered. Historical inquiries into the migrant organisations’ cultural evolutions in the cities and the interplays (cooperation, tensions and splits) between their members at the local level have remained limited. Gender perspectives are the main indicators of cultural affiliations and changes. Nevertheless, the cultural history of gender perspectives raised by migrant organisations also remains a huge gap in the literature.

In the context of the research gaps mentioned above, the question remains: How did the cultural history of migrant organisations evolve at the institutional and membership level and in relation to the emerging women’s movement? The present study addresses this question through the cases of umbrella organisations from Turkey, with a specific reference to their associations, social networks and female workgroups in Cologne and Frankfurt am Main from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Thus, the project examines the history of migrant organisations in two cities based on cultural changes at the institutional and local level and prioritises women’s participations. The planned historical research design is based on the archival documents located by the applicant and oral history interviews with association members from different generations and gender groups at the institutional and membership level.

Jan Markus Vömel: Order and the Moral Self: The Culture of Islamism in Turkey, 1950-2000

Mit meinem Dissertationsprojekt versuche ich einen neuen kulturgeschichtlich inspirierten Zugang zum türkischen Islamismus in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jh. zu eröffnen. Von besonderem Interesse sind hierbei die langen 1980er-Jahre (von Mitte der 1970er- bis Mitte der 1990er-Jahre), die ich als Phase des „Hochislamismus“ analysiere. Das zeithistorisch angelegte Projekt soll einen Gegenpol bilden zu politikwissenschaftlichen und ethnologischen Arbeiten, die Islamismus bisher vor allem als Epiphänomen des Politischen betrachteten. Hierfür erschließen Kapitel zum disziplinären Grundcharakter des Islamismus, zu islamistischen Genderrollen, zu Interaktionen mit Raum und Zeit, zum sprachlichen Framing, sowie zu Emotion und Erfahrung mit bisher wenig beachteten Quellen zentrale Dimensionen der islamistischen Bewegung. Der türkische Islamismus kann so in zwei Grundaspekten analytisch gefasst werden: 1) die disziplinär-holistische Neuordnung der Lebenswelt und 2) die Schaffung einer neuen Subjektivität als „bewusste Muslime“ (şuurlu Müslüman). Dieser interpretative Zugriff erlaubt es, den großen Erfolg des Islamismus und seine hohe Bindungskraft für einzelne Subjekte neu zu erklären. Über dieses Forschungsprojekt hinaus interessieren mich globalhistorische Aspekte der türkischen Zeitgeschichte im Allgemeinen und des Islamismus im Besonderen.

Alp Yenen: A Cold War History of the Turkish Civil War in the 1970s

After the student protests of 1968, a contentious stream started in Turkey between the radical leftist and far-right youth movements. Political violence intensified into a quasi-civil war after 1976, in which according to estimates at least 5,000 people were killed, thousands injured, hundreds disappeared, and many others found asylum abroad. This contentious stream resulted in the traumatic military coup of 1980 and formally ended in the constitutional referendum of 1982. Although Turkey went through formative changes during the “long 1970s”, this period remains an understudied area both in history and social sciences. After 1980s, a new post-Kemalist paradigm emerged, when liberal leftism, Kurdish activism, and political Islamism opposed the ontology and epistemology of the republican establishment. Ever since, the study of modern Turkey is dominated by themes of Kemalist nation-state formation, civil-military relations, and identity politics, which reframed the conventional “Turkish exceptionalism” as Turkish modernity’s troubled Sonderweg; hence, once again isolating Turkey from the world around it. While moving beyond this current mainstream, this project embeds the history of Turkey’s civil strife in the 1970s as part of the global Cold War. First, the project illustrates transnational networks, global frames, and cultural scripts of the radical left and the far right in context of the Cold War’s détente. Second, the project connects and compares the radicalization of civil strife and the military coup of 1980 with other contentious events in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Third, the project discusses the deterioration of state-society relations and shifts in the political culture as a consequence of the changing world order. The “post-modern” Turkey, which emerged after 1980, was part of a new Middle East, where the Cold War order came to an abortive end—a decade earlier than its formal end in Eastern Europe.