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.

Excerpt from Stefano Allievi (2009) Conflicts over Mosques in Europe: Policy issues and trends – NEF Initiative on Religion and Democracy in Europe, Network of European Foundations, p.11.

Islam and Europe: stages of approximation

Phase 1: Islam and Europe A long first stage, lasting for at least the first ten centuries of the history of Islam, was one of major conflicts (analysed as such, however, only at a later date), symbolized by the Crusades, which saw Islam and (Christian) Europe facing one another, conceived and perceived as mutually impenetrable and self‑referencing. All this was in spite of reality and history, which show how permeability and exchange (of philosophical ideas, scientific concepts, and artistic forms, as well as economic and trading links) were more the norm than the exception.

Phase 2: Europe in Islam In the second phase, we see European dominance of Islamic lands (the most powerfulconflictfront symbolic moment of this was the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in 1798). First, in the age of empires and the colonial period, Europe dominated Muslim countries directly. Later, during the ongoing stage of neo‑ or post‑colonial influence ‘at a distance’ – through economic globalization, the pervasiveness of the mass media and western consumption patterns – Europe has gradually brought the Muslim world within transnational economic trends and political institutions.

Phase 3: Islam in Europe In a third, more recent phase, Islam began to spread in Europe through migration. This began in France, for example, between the two world wars, and in most European countries during the period of postwar reconstruction and economic boom – in the 1950s and 1960s in the centre and north, and later still, from the late 1970s onwards, in southern Europe. It is still a phase characterized mainly by first‑generation immigrants coming from former colonies (from Algeria to France, for instance, and from the Indian subcontinent to Great Britain), but there are also new forms of immigration (such as Turks coming to Germany), which gradually expand as more and more countries export labour in response to European demand.

Phase 4: the Islam of Europe In a fourth phase we observe the emergence and consolidation of an Islam of Europe, through a gradual process of insertion, manifested in the processes of integration – initially in the workplace, then in a social and sometimes political context – and of generational transition. Together, these contribute to the formation of a middle class and an intelligentsia of Islamic origin: one that still has relations with the countries of origin, but which does not come from outside, and is born and socialized in Europe – self‑formed and forced or encouraged to build its own identity and its own space.

Phase 5: European Islam The result of this process should be the formation of a genuine European Islam, with its own pronounced identity different from that of Arabic Islam or that of other countries and cultural areas of origin. This Islam is (and even more in the future will be seen to be) a native European movement, largely the result of a gradual and substantial process of ‘citizenization’ of Muslims residing in Europe, who look forward to the prospect of full rights on an equal footing with other Europeans, with whom they share a common destiny. Of this phase, for now just given in outline, one cannot say much, except that its outcome will depend on the internal evolution of Muslim communities and their populations; on the dynamics of global Islam; and, perhaps most importantly, on the reactions and policies adopted towards them by the governments of individual European countries, which will in turn be influenced by their political parties and public opinion. In a word, the outcome will depend largely on non‑Muslims, on the manner in which they approach the problem, on discussions of the issue, and on the fears and visions of the wider world.

Today, most European countries find themselves somewhere between the third and fourth phases, although there are some hints of the beginning of the fifth phase, which will become more visible in the years and decades to come… Like all social phenomena, these cannot be generalized, and show elements of complexity, contradiction and ambiguity.

GSA Annual Conference 2015

Living the Global: the cultural experience of globalization

Roehampton University, Thurs 2nd – Sat 4th July 2015


Keynote speakers:

Ian Woodward (Griffith University, Brisbane), author of Cosmopolitanism: Uses of the Idea

Nick Stevenson (Nottingham), author of Cultural Citizenship: Cosmopolitan Questions.

Call for papers:

‘Living the global’ aims to explore an under-researched aspect of globalization; how people experience it. The human experience of globalization requires closer attention to everyday practices, subject-object relationships, and aesthetics (among other things) that can reveal the different ways in which people respond to, negotiate, and attempt to harness global processes. Of central importance are questions such as: how and where are these different experiences of globalization revealed? How are different experiences expressed/represented?

We know that global processes do not impact on all people in the same way and can lead to different outcomes for different people. In short, the same process can result in different experiences of globalization. Bauman talks of ‘Globalization for some, localization for some’, but this formulation risks obscuring how this duality works in tandem in all spaces; others talk about ‘glocalization’, the intertwining of the global and local, for example, while yet others see globalization as being ‘in here’ as well as just ‘out there’.

The key to understanding all this, it is suggested, is developing a more nuanced perspective on the human experience of globalization and how this is manifested in culture, politics, media and society. We are interested in finding out how people accommodate themselves to ‘living the global’ but also how they may drive it too, under certain conditions. ‘Living the global’ intends to address these areas of human creativity in the context of global processes and explore the connections and disjunctures between experiences.

We are particularly interested in receiving proposals for papers in the following areas;   download

– Representations of glocalization (in film, literature etc.)

– ‘Bottom up’ accounts of global processes

– Mapping ‘global journeys’ and the centrality of mobility to the experience of globalization

– Encounters with ‘global things’, either as commodities or as empowering objects

– Transnational migration and migrant identities

– Experiencing hybridity and/or difference

– Tourism and cultural encounters

– Digital diasporas

– Memorializing cultural encounters: the role of museums and heritage studies51343_9781849200646

– The rise of the interplanetary: leaving the global behind?

– The border as global portal: connectivity and transnationalism

– ‘Living the global city’: urban encounters

– Cosmopolitanism as a particular experience of globalization

Proposals for papers should take the form of a 300 word abstract and may be submitted on any aspect of the conference theme. The organisers will allocate papers to an appropriate panel.

The deadline for submission of abstracts (300 words) is April 30, 2015.

Please send to conference organizer Chris Rumford at chris.rumford@rhul.ac.uk


Conference registration:

Costs: Full registration £245 (includes accommodation, lunch and other refreshments, and conference fee).  Discounted student registration £170.

Standard registration (no-accommodation) £175. Discounted student rate £130.

Conference dinner is £40 extra for all delegates. Registration includes automatic GSA membership.

Please follow this link to register for the conference: http://estore.roehampton.ac.uk/​


ChangingTurkey.com is currently looking for an academic book reviewer for ‘Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Religion, Politics, and Conflict Resolution‘ edited by Elazar Barkan and Karen Barkey (Columbia University Press, 2014). PhD candidates and academics working on related themes are warmly welcome to send their CV to ChangingTurkey@gmail.com

We require a maximum 1000 word-long review which explains the main contributions of the book to the state-of-the-art. We strongly encourage book reviews that put forward constructive criticisms about the book’s main arguments, some important issues that the book may have neglected, the dialogue (or lack thereof) between individual book chapters, and so on. The deadline for review submission is proposed as 16 March 2015.


Information about the book

This anthology explores the dynamics of shared religious sites in Turkey, the Balkans, Palestine/Israel, Cyprus, and 9780231169943Algeria, indicating where local and national stakeholders maneuver between competition and cooperation, coexistence and conflict. Contributors probe the notion of coexistence and the logic that underlies centuries of “sharing,” exploring when and why sharing gets interrupted–or not–by conflict, and the policy consequences.

These essays map the choreographies of shared sacred spaces within the framework of state-society relations, juxtaposing a site’s political and religious features and exploring whether sharing or contestation is primarily religious or politically motivated. Although religion and politics are intertwined phenomena, the contributors to this volume understand the category of “religion” and the “political” as devices meant to distinguish between the theological and confessional aspects of religion and the political goals of groups. Their comparative approach better represents the transition in some cases of sites into places of hatred and violence, while in other instances they remain noncontroversial. The essays clearly delineate the religious and political factors that contribute to the context and causality of conflict at these sites and draw on history and anthropology to shed light on the often rapid switch from relative tolerance to distress to peace and calm

The bicephalous nature of Turkey’s Syrian Policy

by Ariel González Levaggi (Koç University, Turkey)

Ariel González Levaggi is a Ph.D. student at Koç University in Istanbul. Turkey. He holds a TÜBİTAK Graduate Scholarship and acts as the Secretary of the Turkish Studies Chair at the Eurasia Department- Institute of International Relations of the National University of La Plata (Argentina).

The Arab Revolutions were the turning point for the Turkish foreign policy towards the Middle East. The “virtuous regional cycle” based on cooperation resulting in the growing economic interdependence between Turkey and its Middle Eastern neighbors and the enhancement of security along Turkey’s southern borders, has been replaced with a more competitive approach wherein the promotion and spread of normative democratic principles along with national security interests become the main aims of the Foreign Policy in a highly unstable and dynamic regional context[1]. The regional environment used to be perceived as more stable after starting to recover from the US invasion of Iraq but this stability blew up with the streak of regime changes and increasing securitization towards popular demands. The Middle East has become again a turbulent region.

Domestic revolt in several Arab countries was one of the main drivers of change in the Great and Regional Powers’ Middle East policy. In Turkey’s case, the general approach has changed from a security-economy balance approach to a normative-security one. These regional events generated an opportunity to show the benefits of the “Turkish Model” combining democracy and moderate Islam as well as positioning Turkey as a new regional power[2]. Such alterations in Turkey’s regional policy was not an exception. All the regional and global powers had to deal with this new situation but only a few modified their behavior in an effective way. On the contrary, most of them have committed several mistakes and miscalculations (Take the French support for Ben Ali in Tunisia or the overall NATO Military Intervention in Libya).

The core of Ankara’s new political identity has been the same since 2002. The AKP generally represents the emergence of the traditional and conservative Anatolian elite traditionally opposed to the “old” Kemalist elite who ruled most of the Republic’s years. While the “white” (Kemalist) elite used to see Europe and the West as the main international horizon for Turkey, the new “green” elite has been more interested in the countries that previously belonged to the Ottoman Empire with a special focus on the Middle East and the Islamic World. Relations with the West may still be important for AKP foreign policy-makers, but in their opinion, the West is neither the most relevant dimension of Turkish foreign policy, nor the main orientation for Turkey’s future. During the first years of AKP, the accession of Turkey to the European Union was the main determinant for Turkey but following the partial suspension of the negotiations with the EU, Turkey has changed its general foreign policy orientation slowly toward the East trying to diversify and balance the growing indifference of the West – especially in Europe –towards Turkey. Erdoğan’s government has chosen the Middle East as one of the regional priorities of Turkey’s “new” Foreign Policy not only due to the identity nexus between Turkey and the Middle East, but also because of the change in Turkey’s strategic culture and the rising opportunities in economic and cultural spheres. This orientation toward the Middle East deepened even more after the Arab Revolutions. In general terms, the Turkish Foreign Policy toward the Middle East in the AKP era can be split into two phases: the era of the Regional Grand Strategy (2002-2011) and the “Country-to-country” Strategy (from 2011 until now). The cutting line is the Arab Spring. Syria is the more relevant example of the pro-activism and assertiveness of the Regional Grand Strategy but, at the same time, the focus of the controversial foreign policy of Ankara in the aftermath of the Arab Revolutions.

In the short-term, there have been no real winners of the “Arab Spring” but the destabilizing forces of radical Islamism such as Daesh (Islamic State). No regional power has succeeded yet in strategic terms. In this context, Turkey can be counted among the losers because it not only failed to change the trajectory of the Assad’s regime regarding the popular democratic demands and lost an economic partner in the region, but it is also facing increasing threats in its south-eastern frontier and a growing humanitarian cost due to the question of Syrian refugees, among other issues. Turkey’s Syrian Policy is neither a success nor a complete failure. The actual results are grey rather than black or white. This policy, from the beginning of the “Syrian Spring”, has a “bicephalous” nature between national security and normative concerns[3]. The “bicephalous” nature is not a new modus operandi for Turkey but the increasing divergence between the realist and normative perspective produces paradoxical outcomes that makes it an unusual case. Beyond well-meaning rhetoric, Turkey’s bicephalous policy was not enough to face the challenges of civil war in Syria. The normative approach does not fully explain per se why Turkey broke up its “special relations” with Syria; nor why Turkey developed good relations with undemocratic states like the Gulf Countries. For its part, the realist approach based on self-interest and the search of a regional hegemony remains insufficient to explain why Turkey has followed an open border policy towards a significant number of Syrian refugees or why it decided not to normalize its relations with Al-Sisi’s Egypt.

During the Syrian Crisis, Turkey has pursued its self-interests, trying to be a regional hegemon while, at the same time, it has sought to promote democratic values and norms. This approach has affected the relations of Turkey at global level. In particular, Turkey’s Syrian policy has led to several difficulties with the West because of the lack of support of the United States and European major powers to Turkey’s position toward Al-Assad’s Regime. Western countries have chosen to develop a more pragmatic policy toward Syria than Turkey did. The threat of an Islamic State has only worsened the relationship between Turkey and the West, and challenged the perceptions of Turkey as a reliable Western ally.

Turkey has developed a “bicephalous approach” toward Syria mixing elements of realism and liberal internationalism. This approach means that Turkey’s Syrian policy has two major dimensions. The normative dimension considers the longue durée in terms of providing a long-term horizon in which the emphasis on democracy and popular legitimacy as well as the crisis management efforts that do not hold immediate effects, are central to reordering the regional and global environment in a constructive manner. Alternatively, the realist/strategic or “self-interest” dimension deals with the current (and immediate) security concerns and economic consequences of the Syrian Civil War. However, these dimensions have not been always complementary, but competitive in the midst of an increasing tension. Greater emphasis on democracy promotion leads to greater insecurity and the greater pursuit of domestic security leads to the abundance of undemocratic measures at domestic level. In addition to these paradoxes, the situation has deteriorated in the last two years, especially since the eruption of the Daesh and the reemergence of the Kurdish issue — which is the traditional security threat against the Turkish Republic since the 1980s. Overall, the Arab Revolutions and the Syrian Civil War have undermined Turkey’s position in the Middle East and Turkey’s Syrian Policy involves a dualistic response to an unstable and complex environment in which Turkey remains only an actor among others, rather than the main actor.

[1] Öniş, Ziya (2014) “Turkey and the Arab Revolutions: Boundaries of Middle Power Influence in a Turbulent Middle East”, Mediterranean Politics, Vol. 19 (2), p. 4.

[2] Ozkan, Mehmet and Korkut, Hasan (2013) “Turkish Foreign Policy towards the Arab Revolutions”, Epiphany: Vol. 6 (1), p. 171.

[3] Onis, Ziya (2012) Turkey and the Arab spring: between ethics and self-interest. Insight Turkey, Vol. 14 (1), p. 6.

-Image copyrights by Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Shifting Roles of Anıtkabir in “New Turkey”

By Canan Neşe Karahasan

C. Neşe Karahasan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD research is an ethnographic study of the state, focusing on exhibiting oppositionary, namely secular Republic and Islamic Ottoman, pasts of “Turkishness” in competing state museums (Anıtkabir and Topkapı Palace museums) at a time of flux in Turkey. Currently, she is in the writing-up period of her PhD. Her research interests include Turkish nationalisms, museums, ethnography of the state, secularism and Islam in Turkey.

Anıtkabir was designed as more than a mausoleum of Atatürk (Wilson 2009), the founding father of the modern Turkish Republic. Its architecture is a three dimensional story book of the Turkish official history thesis, narrating the secular formation of the nation from its pre-Islamic Central Asian and Anatolian roots towards the modern Turkish Republic (Bozdoğan 2001: 290). The museum inside Anıtkabir completes this narration through the display of Atatürk and the Early Republican period. Under the command of the Turkish Armed Forces, as the “guardian” (Öktem 2011: 7) of secularism, Anıtkabir also hosts official and non-official “rituals for the state” (Navaro-Yashin 2002) and Atatürk. What happens to this strong symbol of secularism in “new Turkey”, where the Kemalist-secularist state power and its official nationalism are overturned under the single party rule of the “neo-Islamist” (Keyder 2004) Justice and Development Party (JDP)? Here, drawing on my ethnographic doctoral research, I discuss the ways in which Anıtkabir negotiates its changing roles, being an “encyclopaedia” (Özyürek 2001: 188) of the state with becoming a “contact zone” (Clifford 1997: 192) for the people.


Since its opening in 1960, the museum inside Anıtkabir had two major re-organisations in 2002 and 2005: both during times of political transformation in Turkey under the JDP rule. The museum, before these renovations, was called the “Atatürk Museum” displaying only Atatürk’s personal belongings confined in a single exhibition hall. With the re-organisation project, the museum was transformed into “Atatürk and the War of Independence Museum”. The new museum now covers the entire area below the mausoleum, which was originally planned as tomb rooms for the consequent presidents of Turkey after Atatürk. Converting this sacred space into a museum, Anıtkabir not only re-asserted the omnipresence of Atatürk as the leader to be commemorated, but also secularised its own space to display the early Republican period.

In its new form, the museum is organised on the basis of a scenario, portraying the formation of the nation along a linear narrative. It displays Atatürk’s personal belongings, panoramic paintings of the Turkish War of Independence, and documents from the Early Republican era in sequence. For this reason, the visiting route is secured in strict ways. Visitors’ gaze, i.e. their “civic seeing” (Bennet 2006), is primarily shaped by the interior design of the museum, making it hard to divert from the given route. Red arrows on the floors and fences separating visiting routes force visitors to see the display in a particular way. When visitors divert from the route, they are immediately warned by the museum staff. Also, there are museum guides, who narrate the museum’s scenario to visitors by using the same phrases/sentences relentlessly every day. In this way, the museum ensures that visitors abide to a ‘rite of passage’ and leave the museum being “enlightened” (Duncan 1995: 27) on the secular formation of the Turkish nation. Therefore, Anıtkabir is not the “shrine of Kemalism” (Meeker 1997: 157) for only embodying the tomb of Atatürk, but also for making sure that each visitor gets the same message in each section on the basis of the museum’s scenario and its interior design. Nevertheless, this inflexibility should not lead to the self-fulfilling argument that Anitkabir is a secure encyclopaedic reference point of the Turkish Armed Forces in “guarding” (Öktem 2011) secularism and Kemalist nationalism. Instead, it is in continuous dialogue with daily practices of its visitors and the highly polarised Turkish political arena.


Within this rigidity, as Meltem Türköz (2014) also observes, Anıtkabir is a spot for visitation for ‘the people’, from a newlywed couple to a circumcision boy in his traditional outfits and to a regular citizen praying for the ‘father’ figure. Such visits, conceptualised as “visits to a saint’s tomb” (Navaro-Yashin 2002: 191), are not only allowed in Anıtkabir, but they are also encouraged. The Anıtkabir Command takes photos of such practices, which are then published in each volume of the Anıtkabir journal. These practices are represented and reframed under the title “They Shared Their Happiness with the Father (Ata)” [Mutluluklarını Ata ile Paylaştılar]. In this way, visiting Anıtkabir is reformulated and secularised through the reproduction of the imagined familial link between Atatürk as the father figure and the nation as his children (Özyürek 2006: 67). In fact, for the cultural producers involved in the museum project, one of the underlining motives of the 2002 re-organisation was to emphasise that “Anıtkabir is not a saint’s tomb [türbe]”.


Furthermore, Anıtkabir is also a place of manifesting and raising discontent for many people. Particularly in the last 20 years, thousands of people held manifestations in Anıtkabir to purport secularism against the rising public visibility of Islam. It was one of the spots during the Republican Protests in 2007 against the presidential election of Abdullah Gül, a former member of the JDP government. The regulation on “Executing Services in Anıtkabir”, which has been in force since 1981, forbids chanting slogans, and carrying banners and flags besides the Turkish flag. However, Anıtkabir does not merely allow meetings/protests. Besides, it routinely welcomes unorganised and organised groups of people, chanting “Turkey will remain secular” particularly on national days. Recently, on August 26th 2014, commemorating the Victory Week of the War of Independence, a private group of cultural producers organised an event “#weareinanıtkabir” [#anıtkabirdeyiz] with the permission and logistic support of the Anıtkabir Command. The organisers highlighted that they are not a part of a political organisation and that the event took place to “express a common concern” for leaving a better country for their children. Drawing an analogy from “#occupy” movements, this event claimed Anıtkabir’s space to form the largest live-human face of Atatürk with the participation of 6000 voluntaries.


anitkabir5Courtesy of Onur Işıklı

All in all, Anıtkabir reformulates its position in “new Turkey”. As a response to allegations for being a “shrine” or a “saint’s tomb”, Anıtkabir re-asserts secularism by incorporating a sacred tomb area into the secular space of the museum and secularises individual practices of visiting Atatürk’s tomb by translating them into “sharing happiness with father”. Anıtkabir ensures this self-representation not only through strict disciplining of visitors’ “civic seeing” (Bennet 2006), but also by joining with the people in occupying its own space to reclaim secularism.

*All photos are taken by the author unless stated otherwise.



Bennet, T. (2006) ‘Civic Seeing: Museums and the Organization of Vision’, in Macdonald, S. (ed.) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Bozdoğan, S. (2001) Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic. Singapore: University of Washington Press.

Clifford, J. (1997) Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century,. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Duncan, C., 1995. Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums, New York: Routledge.

Keyder, Ç. (2004) ‘The Turkish Bell Jar’, The New Left Review, 28. Available at: http://newleftreview.org/II/28/caglar-keyder-the-turkish-bell-jar (Accessed: 28 December 2014).

Meeker, M. (1997) ‘Once There was, Once There Wasn’t: National Monuments and Interpersonal Exchange’, in Sibel Bozdoğan and Reşat Kasaba (eds) Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Navaro-Yashin, Y. (2002) Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Öktem, K. (2011) Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989. Canada: Fernwood Publishing.

Özyürek, E. (2001) ‘Cumhuriyetle Nikahlanmak: “Üç Kuşak Cumhuriyet” ve “Bir Yurttaş Yaratmak” Sergileri’ in Esra Özyürek (ed.) Hatırladıklarıyla ve Unuttuklarıyla Türkiye’nin Toplumsal Hafızası. İstanbul: İletişim

Özyürek, E. (2006) Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey. New York: Duke University Press.

Türköz, M. (2014) ‘Fathering the Nation: From Mustafa Kemal to Atatürk’, Traditiones, 44(1), pp. 53–64.

Wilson, C. S. (2009) ‘Representing National Identity and Memory in the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 68(2), pp. 224–253.


Interviewed by Mr. David Klein

Dr. Can Büyükbay is a lecturer of European Politics and Political Theory at the Turkish-German University in can_photo_2013İstanbul. He received his bachelors in political science and public administration at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, his masters in political science from the University of Berne and Ph.D from the University of Zurich, where he also worked as a lecturer at the Department of Political Science and History. Buyukbay also worked for three years as consultant at the Turkish embassy in Switzerland and is the founder of the Consultcan Turkish-Swiss expert network.

Dr. Buyukbay, to begin with, could you tell us a little bit about the kind of research you do and the theories you are working on.

My PhD thesis examined the construction of Eurosceptic discourse in civil society, mainly focusing on Turkey`s possible EU membership, ongoing political struggles between different political camps in Turkey and general Western discourse under the conceptual framework of Occidentalism.

Currently, though, I am working on three projects focusing on Yoga and Politics, Occidentalism and Orientalism and World Systems Analysis, respectively.

The first one deals with politics from a macro-perspective and yoga from a micro-perspective.

The aim of my second new project is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the reciprocal interaction of the concepts of Orientalism and Occidentalism. More specifically, the project examines the discursive construction of Europe/Germany by the conservative AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the discursive formation of the Orient/Turkey by the conservative- right-wing CDU (Christian Democratic Union of Germany). … The final project is a response to Immanuel Wallerstein’s theories on the genesis and trajectory of the modern world-system or, in other words the capitalist world-economy as the basic pattern for modernity. I believe that this approach has certain limitations which can only be unfolded by another world-systems analyst Giovanni Arrighi’s thesis of systemic cycles of accumulation (1996).

Starting with your first theory could you tell us more about where the idea of comparing politics with yogic theories came from?

We should accept that humanity and international political system are plunging deeper and deeper into crisis. Despite huge technological developments and new medical solutions, human beings continue to suffer. This is normal because the basic understanding of human nature in the modern capitalist system is that human being is selfish. I don’t agree with this premise.

Modern science tells us that human beings can also be altruistic. Moreover, it tells us that increased income does not correlate with increased happiness. Yoga also considers the same systematically and scientifically showing the ways to an altruistic attitude.

If governments focus only on the accumulation of power, capital, and income, as it is the case now, wars will continue. That is why I believe that especially young academics should focus on revolutionary concepts in order to change the skeletons of political science. Furthermore, powerful politicians forget the interconnectedness of the world. If people suffer in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere, due, in part, to the selfish interests of the hegemon powers, that will inevitably turn into a very threatening factor for their own countries. This is the law of compensation. Yoga and historical facts both suggest this.

If political science wants to contribute to a healthy society and individual happiness it should turn its focus to Gross National Happiness (GNH), not economic growth (GDP). We need systematic politico-yogic concepts with which to approach political and enable the chaotic international system to change from its destructive ‘Thanatos’ nature to a loving ‘Eros’ nature to use Freud’s terms.

In my own experiences I have been fortunate enough to observe and experience both the Eastern and Western Worlds. I spent a long time in Indian Ashrams to practice and learn Yoga and I am part of the team that started (Sivananda) Yoga in China. I observed that Yoga is in fact a scientific method which can affect human being in a very positive and peaceful way.

What are some of the yogic concepts you explore and how do you apply them?

Well, the practice of yoga is a science and an art dedicated to creating union between mind, body and spirit. We realize through its practice that we are intimately connected to all beings.

The foundations of yoga philosophy were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately in 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and offers eight steps to its control. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice.

In brief, I focus on the first limb that Patanjali describes and that I feel we strongly need: Yama: Universal morality. The first limb that Patanjali describes is the fundamental ethical precepts called Yama. Yama teaches us how we should deal with people around us. The attitudes we have towards the things and people outside ourselves is Yama. It is mostly concerned with how we use our energy in relationship to others.

The Yamas are divided into five “wise characteristics.” Rather than a list of dos and don’ts, they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.

I focus on the following four:

  1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence; it means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Gandhi’s civil disobedience was also based on this principle.
  1. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness: Look at our modern-day politicians and how they use concepts such as freedom, democracy or modernity for their own interests.

Satya is a remedy for this, it is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the foundation of any healthy society or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

  1. Asteya – No stealing: A very good principle against corruption. Especially, when we observe current events in Turkey. It both considers material and immaterial aspects.
  2. Aparigraha – Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth. That is also compatible with the modern scientific finding that happiness does not increase with income.

Yoga’s political philosophy is peace. Peace depends on nonviolence. Nonviolence is extremely political and threatening for the current system.

Could you tell us how you use these to examine political developments?

If rationalism alone were enough, than Kasparov wouldn’t have won against Deep Blue which is capable of 200 million calculations per second. In our lives, intuition plays a strong role as in chess. That is the value of intuition. Yet, we all feel that the current system is inhuman.

Look what we’ve experienced in Iraq, Syria and many other areas of the world. Look at ISIS and how the West contributed to its development for the sake of ‘irrational’ interests. In order to bring back universal values, we need a peaceful state of mind rather than the destructive side of the human being. I recommend to Western politicians that they should learn of the “interconnectedness of all”. If they believe that they maximize their interests through theories such as ‘Constructive Chaos’ of the Bush administration they are strongly mistaken.

Consider this example: You are a great economist and develop an economic model that contributes to the increase of Coca-Cola production. To me this has no value. We don’t need such economic models if the result is negative for human health. That is the principle of ‘Yama’, ethics or purification through moral training.

I dream of a combination of Yogic philosophy and Socialism as the most appropriate political system for human happiness. In this case, it is a social system that centers on human being themselves rather than on their “by-products”. In my opinion, socialism contributes to the development of the creative and egalitarian side of human nature, whereas capitalism brings forth its destructive and unhealthy nature. Hence, the crisis of the capitalist system is a reflection of the chaotic state of the collective consciousness.

You say that you explore politics on a macro scale and yoga on a micro one. Could you elaborate a little bit about why it needs to be looked at like that?

I start from the transformation of the individual, the micro-scale of society, and the transformation of the society the macro-scale of a human, simultaneously. Yoga gives the modern man a sublime practical philosophy to create again the cosmos. We need a combined approach in political science that leads to a healthy man and society together. The needs of human being and societies should be evaluated not according to the “logic” of capital accumulation but according to the very nature of human being.

Lastly, I want to mention a very important name for my attempts at combining Yoga and Political Science, namely Swami Vishnudevananda. Swamiji was also known as the “Flying Swami” for the different peace missions he accomplished around the world. He taught me that we should be deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the World and the constant suffering brought through war. He garnered the attention of international media when throwing flowers into war-torn areas from his “hippy plane” while repeating the peace Mantra: Om Namo Narayanaya.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 918 other followers

%d bloggers like this: