Ali Balcı, Dr., is a Research Assistant at Sakarya University. He graduated from the Department of International Relations at Uludağ University and obtained his MA degree from the Department of International Relations at Sakarya University. He also was at the University of Utah as a visiting scholar in 2007. He has written several articles published in journals such as Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Turkish Studies and Uluslararası İlişkiler [International Relations]. His PhD dissertation is “A Periodization of State Discourse in Republican Turkey: A Foucauldian Approach”.
- 1. Could you tell us a bit about your recent/forthcoming publications? Especially, could you tell us about your forthcoming paper entitled ‘A Trajectory of Competing Narratives: Turkish Media Debates Ergenekon’, which is going to appear in Mediterranean Quarterly?
According to the paper which will appear in MQ, the Turkish media from the outset have never had a uniform perspective about what Ergenekon was. The secularist media depicted Ergenekon as an armed gang composed mostly of rightist militants within the state while the Islamist media present it as a more overarching organization ranging from armed gangs to secular civil society associations. The Ergenekon investigation caused no change on understandings of these two media camps because the different accounts of Ergenekon have been built on the already-divided camps. Findings in the paper contribute Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s concept “popular subject position” which refers to the position that is constituted on the basis of dividing the political space into two antagonistic camps. However, the ‘two antagonistic camps’ situation or bipolarized space in Turkish politics is not natural given as Laclau and Mouffe argued rather it has been constructed by the state’s political methods of securitization of Islamic and secular identities.
- 2. What are the potential limitations of the existing analyses on Turkish politics and society, in your opinion? Could you suggest any gaps in the literature or any potential pitfalls?
Let me answer this question by listing potential and existing limitations.
The lack of theory: the most of studies on Turkish politics and society lacks a theory-driven approach. Even the studies which claim that it has a theoretical approach are far from combining facts and theories. Although the first part of any study contains any theory, the rest (empirical part) of the study is free from this theory which should be adapted to empirical data. I should admit that there is a new generation of Turkish scholars whose analyses are sources of a hope for the future of Turkish academia.
Ideological: There is of course a correlation between the lack of theory and being ideological because emotions can easily get in the way of facts if a study is not guided by theory. That’s why academicians can become an extension of the securitization of existing identities by the state or “organic intellectuals” in Gramscian terms. Many Turkish academicians leave out state and societal oppression that people face, rather accuse the people of not obeying the rules of the state or society.
- 3. What is the best manuscript you’ve read on Turkish politics and society so far? Could you suggest our readers any Turkey-focused research you’ve found valuable?
In general, I always find Şerif Mardin’s texts valuable. In addition to Mardin’s texts, Çağlar Keyder, Ergun Özbudun, Nilüfer Göle, Fuat Keyman, Ziya Öniş, Pınar Bilgin, Feroz Ahmad ets. wrote many valuable texts on Turkish politics. As for recent specific works which I find insightful;
Tim Jacoby (2004), State Power and the Turkish State, Frank Cass Publishers, London
Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey (Publications on the Near East, University of Washington) edited by Sibel Bozdogan and Resat Kasaba
Finally, I should mention eight volume studies of İletişim Publication on Political Thought in Turkey.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author/s who retain the copyright.