Panel 4c. Pointing to Yourself on the Map: Gezi Resistance in Turkey

Chair: Clemens Hoffman

Researching Global Waves of Social Movements: Surprising Absence in Gezi Resistance
Zelal Ozdemir, Middle East Technical University

Almost since the very start of June 2013, the street mobilizations across Turkey were described as part of a ‘global wave’. This was the prevalent view in academic writing in blogs, internet magazines and then later in academic journals. Apart from a handful of publications, research on Gezi Resistance did not revolve around its international linkages. It instead focused on class dimension, political cultures, modes of organizing resistance, etc. However, in all these works, the fact that Gezi Resistance was part of a global wave was taken as given, cited and re-cited without any empirical content to it. Agreeing with the analysis that the context of global neoliberalism is partially shared across different cases of mobilization in the globe in the 21st century, we nevertheless argue that this does not constitute a ‘global wave’ which implies an intense solidarity, learning, inspiration between several mobilizations. At the very least it implies a sense of being part of a ‘global crisis’. This is exactly what we conversed about with our informants, the various participants of Gezi Resistance. Despite the local, political and various other differences among them, the overwhelming ‘hissiyat/feeling’ was the uniqueness of the Turkish case and non-identification with a global crisis. Following Brubaker’s distinction, this paper will explore the findings of our research: the incredible difference between categories of practice and categories of analysis, namely the surprising absence of global identifications.

Repositioning vis-a -vis the state and the international: Turkish nationalist youth on the street
Kübra Oğuz, Middle East Technical University

The tension of looking from outside in versus from inside out is most pronounced in the case of Young Turkish nationalists who joined the Gezi resistance to their own surprise. In our field research we came across several clusters, some who turned themselves to political groups and some remaining on the level of loose networks, of young Turkish nationalist mostly close to Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP). Either their parents were from this party or they themselves broke away recently. Some of our informants were still in the party. Born around 1990, these young men and women joined the Gezi Resistance by actively clashing with the police forces and producing their own political satire and propaganda. Very active in the social media platforms, they continue to be part of the general opposition against AKP government. Traditionally xenophobic and shying away from cosmopolitan, inter-ethnic movements, these young nationalists’ enthusiastic participation in street mobilization produces a double puzzle. Firstly, there is the Turkish exceptionalism in the face of a movement claimed to be the most globally connected in Turkey. Secondly, the nationalist tradition in Turkey is traditionally positioned with the state against internationalist and leftist agency. Their transformation exposes the global-ness of the Gezi Resistance in novel ways. Through participant observation, reading of their written materials, in-depth interviews and focus groups, we researched their repositioning in Turkey and in the world during June 2013.

The International, neither here nor there but cutting across everywhere: Mobilizations in Istanbul, Ankara and Hatay
Meliha Benli Altunışık, Middle East Technical University

In a paper questioning ‘Why there is no International Historical Sociology’, Justin Rosenberg concludes that the international is “neither at a level above, nor in a space between, societies, but rather in a dimension of their being which cuts across both of these ‘places’ and reaches simultaneously into the ‘domestic’ constitution of those societies themselves”. By designing our fieldwork on Gezi resistance as a multi-sited research, we had the advantage of looking where exactly the international is. Periods of mobilization provide excellent opportunity for research on the international/transnational constitution of the domestic, as they expose the blurred lines and borders between political communities. Moreover, state becomes a target of the movement and its Janus faced nature, acting both in the international and national spheres, is further exposed. How exactly this ‘cutting across’ occurs was our research question. By comparing a capital, a megacity and a border city, we found the transversal and multiple ways in which the international engages with constitution of domestic politics. Moreover some of these ways are not complimentary but in tension with each other. This paper will provide examples of international-national interaction from these three sites. When our interviewees point to themselves on the map, they also point to where these interactions occur and what they mean for foreign policy, for globalization and for the future of social movements.

Pretending not to talk about the International: Challenges of designing and conducting research about the international
Derya Göçer, Middle East Technical University

Several of the critical approaches to IR, including International Historical Sociology and International Political Sociology, take the co-constitution between the international and the national as one of their key axioms. However, despite years of debates in disciplinary journals and other platforms, empirical research of these relations of co-constitutions is rare. Even rarer is research into contemporary political events. We argue that part of this scarcity is due to the difficult nature of designing and conducting research in these fields. This paper will discuss the methodological challenges we encountered and the partial solutions that we engendered during our field research into the international dimension of the Gezi Resistance in Turkey, including research design and sampling, interview questions and format and other issues such presenting or concealing yourself as an IR theorist to your informants. The realm of international relations is seen as an area of expert knowledge, mystified and reified, alienated from the society. Through our field research we experienced the tensions of representing such a field of expertise and the absence of a vocabulary with which we could converse about the global linkages of people’s lives. The only way to really talk about the international was almost to pretend as if we are not talking about it. This paper will highlight these and other methodological challenges which also have theoretical underpinnings and present some humble suggestions to overcome them.


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