Slavoj Žižek’s conference ‘The Need to Censor Our Dreams’ took place at London School of Economics and Political Science on 11 November 2014. Please find below a summary by Dr Didem Buhari-Gulmez.


Žižek known for his Marxist thinking emphasizes on the structural/systemic forces underlying social crises and protests today. For instance, the cases of gang rapes and women abduction that are currently increasing in India and Mexico point to deeper societal crises caused by social, political and economic inequalities (such as the ‘caste system’). The rise of violence against women in some social contexts is not a number of individual and separate cases of pathology but they are ritualized performances that transmit a message about the prevailing social structure.

According to Žižek, the current paradox we are facing is about our incapability to think out of the box and imagine an alternative social reality. He explains that while technological advances such as biogenetic change the social life and encourage us to think that everything seems possible, we become increasingly unable to change the systemic forces that determine our daily life and worldview. In this sense, even our dreams about an ideal world do reflect the current limitations on our thinking. In Žižek’s words, ‘today, it is much easier to imagine the end of the world than having a 3% decrease in tax’.

During his speech, Žižek puts strong emphasis on the notion of ‘implicit prohibitions’. He argues that the current 41mJhqI0btL._SY300_liberal democratic system has its own prohibitions but limits our expression of the existence of those prohibitions. In this regard, you are free to do anything you want on the condition that you do not commit implicitly prohibited acts. For instance, by giving examples from Hollywood movies such as James Bond, he thinks that modern individual is implicitly prohibited to lose him/herself in love and feel a great passion. Instead, modern individual is assumed to be a consumer: a temporary lover. ‘A one-night stand is acceptable in this system but falling in love –pay attention to the verb “fall”— is unwelcome’. He refers to Judith Butler’s ideas about the need to reconstruct your identity all the time without fixating (or investing) yourself too much on anything as undermining the full experience of living. Žižek argues that: ‘We are so free that we are less and less able to say that we are not free’ and ‘We are less and less able to choose the very frame of choices’. We can choose many things such as our sexual orientation and can travel around the world, but it is almost impossible to change the social context that determines the limited menu of choices that are available to us.

Today’s political systems expect individuals to pretend/act like prohibitions do not exist. In Žižek’s own words: ‘You have a choice, freedom to do that on the condition that you do not use that choice’. Accordingly, we experience ‘extremely controlled subjectivities’; Similar to what Alexis de Tocqueville thought of American society, free individual does not exist; people pretend to be free individuals in light of the myth of free individual advocated by the current political system (Meyer et al 2006). People follow the social ritual or cliché even when they look like they explode (as an expression of anger) or they look like they enjoy their first experience of something. They act in line with what they learnt from the social environment, rather than having the actual capacity to develop an autonomous individuality. This view is also endorsed by John Tomlinson, a renowned globalization scholar who stated that: “We ‘live’ our gender, our sexuality, our nationality, and so forth as publicly institutionalized, discursively organized belongings.”(2003: 273).

Žižek criticizes the current global capitalistic system for both individualizing and culpabilizing us. He argues that the system functions through ‘false individualization’, which tells people to ‘look at themselves rather than blaming the institutions or the system’. This leads people to an ‘endless self-examination’ and feelings of guilt: what did I do for the ecology today? Would people get offended if I use this word or I look directly in their eyes? Am I too insensitive to society’s problems? And so on. According to Žižek, this gradually leads to an ‘ethical cleansing of our dreams’ about the social world. We become incapacitated to be ourselves in terms of making obscene and cynical jokes about for example national stereotypes and making actual contact with one another. Žižek finds the implicit prohibitions on many jokes and acts as a manipulation. Racism does not disappear due to those limitations, it solely becomes more implicit and politically correct.

He thinks that the ruling ideology involves the manipulation of the feelings of guilt in the upper-middle classes. He mentions Starbucks that promises to make donations on behalf of its customers as a good example that shows how the manipulation of guilt works. ‘Your social duty towards nature [or other worldly problems] is included in the price of the commodity you buy’. Hence, you can feel less guilty and continue to be a consumerist at peace. People ‘buy’ this and abandon their agency (or capacity to change things) because no one would want to be always involved in local problems. We rather prefer to have an invisible network making things function for us to continue our daily lives. This means that ‘big events’ like the occupation of the Taksim and Tahrir squares will eventually lose their dynamism and things will return to ‘normal’.

???????????????????????????????According to Žižek, global capitalism no longer brings modernization to the developing world. It rather goes hand in hand with a discourse about returning to our pre-modern or traditional roots and conservative values (such as the primacy of family and community over the individual). ‘Natural marriage between capitalism and western individual values is dissolving today’. We witness the rise of different forms of capitalism in different parts of the world such as China where capitalism functions better in the absence of democracy. Hence, capitalistic forces do not carry a ‘liberal hedonistic individualist ethics’ to non-Western parts of the world. The ‘post-colonial common-sense’ thinking that the proliferation of local and pre-modern identities in the world derives from the failure of the Western civilization as a global model is misleading: The global spread of capitalism does not mean the destruction of local and traditional cultures; on the contrary, ‘global capitalism has no problem in accommodating plurality of local cultures’. Global capitalism paradoxically reinforces and even radicalizes traditional identities.

The consequence is that we live in an ‘apartheid post-democratic society’ in the sense that there are ‘new forms of apartheid’ (segregation) and the ‘regression of public ethical substance’ (such as the rise of the thesis that democratic rights are not for everybody). In Žižek’s opinion, even Fukuyama –an advocate of liberal democracy— disagrees with his own thesis (End of Ideology) today. For Žižek, the solution remains elusive. Old solutions, Žižek calls ‘old dreams’ (like local cooperatives and the welfare state system) are no longer credible. Direct popular mobilization is highly unlikely and ineffective (its effectiveness is limited to emergency states). The solutions proposed by some scholars like Stiglitz seem modest at first sight but they are in fact overambitious in terms of presupposing a global regulatory authority with the capacity to change the fundamental norms of the current system, which is impossible. Žižek ends his highly inspiring speech by stating that: ‘We need to censor our dreams [that are determined and limited by the current system] and reach point zero [which will allow us to think about the possibility of the impossible]’.


For the audio and video of Žižek’s full speech, please go to the LSE website 

Žižek’s new book ‘Trouble in Paradise: Communism after the End of History’ is now on shelves. See London Review of Books for its review.



Meyer, John W., Gili S. Drori, and Hokiyu Hwang (2006) Conclusion. In Gili S. Drori, John W. Meyer, and Hokiyu Hwang (eds.) Globalization and Organization: World Society and Organizational Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomlinson, John (2003) Globalization and Cultural Identity. In David Held and Anthony McGrew (eds.) The Global Transformations Reader: an Introduction to the Globalization Debate. Cambridge : Polity, p. 269-277.




Excerpt from James Ker-Lindsay (2012) The Foreign Policy of Counter Secession: Preventing the Recognition of Contested States. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p.117, 119-120.

In addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council, the battle to prevent recognition is increasingly focused on other emerging downloadpowers on the international stage. The positions adopted by other leading and emerging regional powers can be important in terms of shaping the decisions of other states, either through processes of active or passive influence or, as will be seen in the next chapter, through collective recognition processes conducted through regional organizations. Once again, states trying to prevent recognition tend to have an advantage insofar as these countries tend to favour a very conservative and traditional reading of territorial integrity. They also tend to support the authority of international organizations, particularly the United Nations. Brazil is a good case in point. Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008, the Brazilian government announced that it would not recognize Kosovo until the Security Council reached a decision on the matter. Thereafter, it argued against Kosovo’s independence before the ICJ. As the Brazilian ambassador in Belgrade explained, and noting that Brazil had been a member of the UN Security Council in June 1999 when Resolution 1244 was passed, ‘Our fundamental position is that we respect Serbia’s territorial integrity. We supported Security Council Resolution 1244, under which Kosovo is a part of Serbia. We also think that the principle of self-determination should not run counter to respect for international law’. Likewise, Brazil has not recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The one apparent exception to this general trend towards a conservative reading of international law amongst emerging powers is Turkey. While its support for the Turkish Cypriots is understandable, Ankara also emerged as a key advocate for Kosovo’s independence. This is less easy to explain given Turkish concerns over Kurdish separatism. Perhaps the best answer is that Kosovo is seen as offering a potential model for the wider recognition of the TRNC—as unlikely as this may be given the clear UN injunctions against recognizing the Turkish Cypriot state. Another explanation is that Turkey wishes to serve as a champion of the Kosovo Albanians. Either way, it signals the extent to which Ankara seems prepared to elevate its own narrow national interests above wider international principles. As a result, questions have emerged about Turkey’s position on Abkhazia. As well as having a large Abkhaz population, Turkey also has close economic and trading ties with the territory, which lies just across the Black Sea. It is perhaps for this reason that the Turkish foreign ministry was forced to issue a statement noting it respected the territorial integrity of Georgia when, in April 2011, Sergey Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia, visited Turkey on a private trip at the invitation of several Turkish-Abkhaz NGOs. On balance, it seems extremely unlikely that Ankara will recognize Abkhazia, let alone South Ossetia, any time soon. Quite apart from the good relations between Tbilisi and Ankara, such a move would undoubtedly damage its relations with the EU, which it aspires to join. However, should its European integration process collapse, as may well happen, and Ankara wishes to further improve its ties to Moscow, recognition may indeed become a possibility. Indeed, it has already been suggested that Turkey may be willing to recognize the two areas if Moscow would recognize the TRNC—a trade-off that Russia has already publicly rejected.




As the Changing Turkey team, we are delighted to publish the first Changing Turkey interview conducted by Mr. David Klein. Mr David Klein studies anthropology and journalism at Drexel University, and as a researcher on Turkey he will conduct interviews for the Changing Turkey readers. We extend our warm welcome to Mr David Klein, new Changing Turkey associate fellow. 



Dr. Erkan Saka is an assistant professor in the Communications department at Istanbul Bilgi University where he teaches courses about new media and cyber anthropology. He also heads the public relations and corporate communications MA program. He received a BA and MA in Sociology from Bogazici University, and his PhD in Anthropology from Rice University in Texas. He runs the blog Erkan’s field diary  which focuses on Turkish media. He runs a TV show “Sosyal Kafa“ which examines social media and accordingto his blog, he is a self-described metalhead and a Beşiktaş JK supporter.

CT: Dr. Saka, to begin, could you tell us your perception on the current state of freedom of the press in Turkey?

Dr. Saka: I think, in general, Turkey never had a very good record on media freedom. There was some substantial improvement maybe a decade ago, in the early days of AKP, but it has since deteriorated. I mean, I am now 38 years old, I went through the period of the secularist coup d’état we had in the 1990s, I think the situation at the moment is even worse than those times. I think with the exception of certain opposition newspapers, most of mainstream media is under the direct control of the government.

CT: However according to certain statistics, while much of the mainstream media in Turkey is run by only a few large media conglomerates, 65 percent of them hold an oppositional editorial line towards the government.

Dr. Saka: [the government] recently lost the support of the Gulen movement newspapers as well as the Doğan media group (Doğan alone 490-254accounts for 40% of Turkish media).  I think at the moment though, among the mainstream media, the Doğan-group newspapers have the most impact on public opinion. Gulen-movement newspapers, Zaman and such, have also done some very good journalism, but they are too integrated in the movement and have their own problems. They were also known for supporting pressure on journalists when they were aligned with the AKP government. The Doğan media group is still hesitant to be too oppositional because there is always the pressure of tax issues and such. Even to survive they have been forced to sacrifice some of their columnists. I think the issue boils down to this; AKP really doesn’t have enough manpower to use the media institutions they have as propaganda tools, yes they use them but it is very poorly done. I think most of the well-qualified media employees who had supported the AKP before belonged to the Gulen movement and now they have retreated; so, we see more and more amateurish mistakes in AKP media. Right now it is incredibly difficult to find a job in mass media here in Turkey because you have to be very partisan. In theory I agree with your implication, but I still think there is a lot of pressure from the government on mass media.

CT: What do you think is the future of Turkish media? What will we be seeing five or ten years from now? What do you think will change?

Dr. Saka: It depends on what happens with the business models, but probably, a lot of journalists and reporters who are not feeling so free in their current jobs, especially the columnists who may get fired, will switch to new media. But, of course, you need an income, so we will have to see what happens with the business models for these things in the coming years. What I am more excited about is that ordinary citizens can be producing this kind of stuff. Of course there will always be hierarchies, we all learn how to produce better work and there will always be levels of expertise. But it is surprising that we use new media so much to get our news. I think there is a high level of media literacy in the new media here and I am hoping that we will begin to see many battles [for readers with old media] coming from new media in the next five years.

 CT: Could you finally tell us about a few rising stars who are leading the new media charge here in Turkey?  

 Dr. Saka:  There is no one central figure, it is kind of always changing, though I think this is a good thing. There are some groups I could name, several citizen journalist collectives, such as @140Journos, and @dokuz8haber [ all on twitter], mobile photography collectives like Agence Le Journal, a few sites that are working on verifications issues, and some news sites like Vagus TV and T24 that were important during the Gezi Park resistance, but  are now closing due to financial issues. As I said, it is very decentralized, one stops and another starts but it is always moving. I think it is particularly in times of emergency when all sorts of new media emerge. During Gezi Park, there were micro blogs which were very specific: one which just documented police violence, and another that highlighted the architecture of police barricades. There are so many niche blogs that emerge in these emergencies. There is a new media ecology forming, which is fluid, with viewers flowing from one source to another for different pieces of information, rather than getting it all from one source. Thus most of these people are unknown, and it is all done in a sort of crowd-funded way with everyone contributing their part, but you can pick out some opinion makers and quality journalists in the mix.


S. Erdem Aytaç and Ziya Öniş (2014) “Varieties of Populism in a Changing Global Context: The Divergent Paths of Erdoğan and Kirchnerismo”, Comparative Politics, 47:1, pp.41-59.


“Our emphasis in the present article has been on highlighting and accounting for divergent trajectories of the populist practice in two major emerging democracies. We contend that both the Kirchner governments of Argentina and the Erdoğan governments of Turkey closely fit to the populist pattern of rule, yet their policies point to a leftwing type of populism in Argentina and a right-wing type in Turkey. A mix of domestic and external factors was crucial for this differentiation. Specifically, we stress the importance of the legacy of failed economic policies preceding the rise of populist leaders, distinct integration patterns into the global economy, the strength of labor, and regional dynamics that legitimized certain policy trajectories. While much of the literature on populism has focused on Latin American cases, we introduce a cross-regional dimension to the study of populism, a framework which could be useful for evaluating different populist patterns of rule elsewhere.

We should not assume that the left- or right-wing versions of populism depicted in the present study are necessarily stable. A major challenge to the populist equilibrium concerns the question of sustainability. In Turkey, the Erdoğan governments clearly benefited from large-scale capital inflows, especially during the favorable global liquidity environment between 2002 and 2008. The interruption of these inflows during the crisis of 2008–09, however, dealt a serious blow to the Turkish economy and to the support for the AKP government. The economy contracted by
a startling rate of 14.7 percent in the first quarter of 2009, and, in the March 2009 local elections, AKP registered one of its lowest levels of support during its ten-year rule. While capital inflows resumed in the aftermath of the crisis, the continuation of this pattern of growth is not assured given the precarious condition of the global economy. Indeed, there are signs that Turkey’s externally driven growth pattern is reaching its limits, and the country may be entering into a new phase of slow growth. The example of the 2009 local elections suggests that a protracted period of slow growth may present serious challenges to AKP for maintaining its broad-based electoral coalition.”




The withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 left behind a set of thorny and unresolved problems in the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) centered in Erbil, and the Federal Government of Iraq in Baghdad… The vague constitutional provision for a federal Iraq has been interpreted differently in Erbil, which has sought to maximize its autonomy from the center, and Baghdad. These differences have been given additional import by the KRG’s energetic attempts to develop its own oil and gas resources in the absence of a federal hydrocarbons law…

The “Arab Awakening,” especially in Syria, has further contributed to the tensions between Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad. Turkey’s support of the mainly Sunni opposition to the Damascus regime has been countered by the sympathies Tehran and Baghdad have exhibited towards the mainly Alawite Syrian government. Combined with Turkey’s unhappiness with Maliki and Tehran’s support of Iraq’s Shia leadership, a sectarian dimension has been introduced into these regional relationships. Furthermore, Turkey is also uneasy about the emergence of Syrian Kurdish groups seeking autonomy and deemed by Ankara to be aligned with its own troublesome Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Although the KRG leadership has sought to bolster more amenable Syrian Kurdish groups, its support for autonomy for Syria’s Kurds has introduced some disquiet into Ankara’s relationship with Erbil. Developments in Syria’s Kurdish areas have combined with the very existence of the KRG and Ankara’s relationship with it, to put Turkey’s own domestic Kurdish problems under the spotlight.

The investment of the major energy companies in the KRG and the construction of pipelines into Turkey, possibly in the face of 51eoYW58wjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_Baghdad’s opposition, has raised the stakes in the region. Currently, Washington still appears to be aligning with Baghdad’s view that the Turkey-KRG relationship has moved too far and too fast and that the development of Iraq’s entire energy resources is, and should be, primarily Baghdad’s responsibility. The United States is also contributing to Iraq’s rearmament, which Erbil feels poses a direct threat to the KRG’s security. This has created the paradox that Washington’s perspective seems closer to Tehran’s than to Ankara’s or Erbil’s. The United States is encouraging a search for consensus between Ankara, Erbil, and Baghdad, but it is unclear that this is a realistic prospect. Iraq’s national elections are due in 2014, which is also the year that commercial decisions on whether to produce marketable quantities of the KRG’s energy resources will probably need to be made, which will, in turn, require the identification of export routes and mechanisms.

With so many moving parts, prediction is impossible and unwise. However, a failure to address the outstanding difficulties in the Ankara-Erbil-Baghdad set of relationships could find regional tensions worsen, possibly leading to a serious challenge to the current map of the region; a failure to bring the KRG’s significant energy resources to global markets; a burgeoning of Iranian influence in Iraq and in the wider region; an increasingly authoritarian, centralizing, unstable, Shia dominated and pro-Iranian government in Baghdad; and a challenge to Kurdish aspirations to wriggle free of some of those forces in the region that have so long repressed their aspirations.

Social Transformation and International Migration in Turkey

Venue and Date: Boğaziçi University, 8-9 January 2015

Organizers: Mine Eder, Ahmet İçduygu, Derya Özkul


Workshop rationale

At times of rapid change, such as the current epoch of accelerated globalization, international migration tends to grow in volume and to become increasingly important as a factor helping to reshape societies. This call for papers for an international workshop looks at the processes of social transformation in Turkey and aims to analyze the role of recent human mobility within these processes. Thus, our main departure point is that migration is not just a result of change, nor a cause of change, but an integral part of social transformation processes*

Turkey has gone through a series of changes in the last decade that constitute a neoliberal transformation: the developments in the economy, the rise in the urban middle class and the absence of welfare provisions are among the factors that have required the arrival of international migrants. As such, Turkey has increasingly become an immigration country. In this workshop, we are interested in papers with a clear theoretical perspective and strong empirical data on recent migration flows in Turkey from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives.

Papers may explore the following themes, and any further issues that arise from this outline:

  • Political economy and absence of welfare provisions in Turkey: need for low-skilled migrants;
  • Increasing international competition for highly skilled migrants and implications for Turkey;
  • Lived experiences of internal and international migrants: precarious work and informality;
  • Urban transformation projects and implications for internal and international migration;
  • Feminization of migration in Turkey;
  • Challenges to policy-making in migration and asylum seeking in Turkey;
  • Changing citizenship regime and challenges to national belonging in Turkey;
  • Turkey’s changing foreign affairs, regional flows and in particular Syrian migrants.


*Castles, Stephen. 2010. Understanding Global Migration: A Social Transformation Perspective. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36: 1565 – 1586



As a result of this workshop, we are planning to publish the selected papers in a highly ranked academic journal. Our second aim is to establish an academic network for scholars interested in migration related issues in Turkey.


For those presenters who are traveling from outside of Istanbul, limited funding is available for travel and accommodation expenses.

Paper Submission Guidelines

Abstracts of approximately 500 words should be sent as Word document to the organizers by September 15, 2014. Please make sure that you include specific details of your theoretical framework and methodology of your paper. The papers that are suitable for the workshop’s aims and standards will be invited for presentation and a full paper submission.

All enquiries should be sent to:

Mine Eder

Department of Political Sciences and International Relations

Boğaziçi University, Turkey

Email: eder[at]boun.edu.tr


Derya Özkul

Social Transformation and International Migration (STIM) Network

School of Social and Political Sciences

University of Sydney, Australia

Email: derya.ozkul[at]sydney.edu.au

 The more they change… Change in the EU and its impact on neighbouring countries

Date and Venue: 9-11 October 2014; Atılım University Ankara, Turkey

 Deadline for abstract submission: 22 August 2014

PhD students and early career researchers are welcome! Please see the workshop rationale below.

Workshop Rationale:

In times of crisis, reform within and beyond the EU has been as pressing as ever. Have the internal dynamics in workings of the EU had an impact on countries in the neighbourhood, particularly those which seek accession? Current five candidate countries for EU accession, as well as further countries in the Western Balkan countries that have been offered the prospect of EU membership are in the focus of monitoring, assessing these countries’ capacity to fulfil economic and political criteria, and ensure societal stability much like countries in previous enlargement waves. Do dynamics internal to the EU impact on candidate and perspective candidate countries and their reactions to changes suggested by the EU? How are those countries sitting in the EU’s ‘waiting room’ interact with the changing interpretation of EU conditionality? Do accession and candidate countries push for reforms even though the nature of conditionality has changed? What role do other international organisations (e.g. Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO) play in drawing candidate states closer to EU? What role do other options available for countries in the European neighbourhood play in variant interpretation of norms projected by the EU upon accession states, candidates and neighbours? Has the nature of the Europeanisation process changed since the start of the economic crisis in Europe? What consequences can we expect for the ability of the EU to deal with future challenges of integration should current accession, candidate or neighbouring states become members?

Debate on how accession, candidate and neighbouring states deal with the changing nature of EU conditionality and respond to the changing perception about the role of the EU on the continent is overdue for refining the self-perceptions of Euro-critical/-sceptic publics in the EU proper. We invite papers that discuss how accession, candidate and neighbouring states deal with the changing nature of EU conditionality, re-shape processes of Europeanisation, address challenges of interacting with sets of international organisations and respond to the changing perception about the role of the EU on the continent. We particularly welcome papers that reflect on one of the above questions by using case or comparative studies. Early/mid-career scholars and PhD students working on topics related to those outlined above are particularly encouraged to apply.

Profs Tanja Börzel and Thomas Risse (FU Berlin) will deliver a keynote speech at the conference. Selection of the papers presented at the conference will be submitted as a special issue to a journal on European politics. Some assistance (costs of accommodation) will be made available to support attendance for early career researchers/PhD students presenting papers. Meals and refreshments will be available for all participants.

Timeline / organisation: Paper proposals of no more than 500 words, complete with author contact details and institutional affiliation, should be submitted via http://www.jotformeu.com/form/41674262878365 by August 22. Successful applicants will be notified by August 31 2014.

The workshop is organised by the UACES CRN Centrifugal Europe http://go.qub.ac.uk/centrifugalism jointly with the Atılım University Ankara (Turkey) and Queen’s University Belfast (UK). If you have any questions, please email Timofey Agarin t.agarin[at]qub.ac.uk  as well as Gözde Yilmaz gozde.yilmaz[at]atilim.edu.tr



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