More information, including the schedule, for the Turkish Studies Symposium is available on our webpage.
About the Symposium
The Eighth Annual Turkish Studies Symposium (TSS) will explore the theme “After Gezi Park Protests -- Rethinking Turkish Politics and Political Culture.” A small protest against the destruction of Gezi Park in downtown Istanbul in late May 2013 has triggered wide-ranging public demonstrations and an outpour of frustration with the authoritarian style of governance. This was arguably the largest wave of protests in Turkey’s history, which have brought together an unusual coalition, a diverse profile of demonstrators that would not have come together before: independents stood side-by-side with the nationalists, anticapitalist-Islamists, LGBT activists, soccer fans, Kurds, Alevis, and people from across the political spectrum. This most diverse, inclusive and democratic wave of protests that Turkey has ever seen turned into sites where the possibility of co-existence was proven as a viable model for Turkish society.
The mass protests and the unfolding events since May 2013, including the widespread corruption accusations leveled at the 11-year AKP government by followers of an Islamic movement, Gulen Hareketi, marked a turning point not only in Turkey’s domestic politics and political culture but also in its foreign policy. The domestic political stability as well as the AKP government’s hyperactive, assertive foreign policy began to crack and the image of Turkey in the international arena took a serious hit. More specifically, the protests and unfolding events have called into question the “Turkish model” —a template that “effectively integrates Islam, democracy and vibrant economics”, for the transitional regimes in the Middle East, on the one hand, and Turkey’s future with the European Union (EU), on the other.
The proposed symposium will address key issues raised by the Gezi protests and the recent challenges faced by the AKP government: What are the new avenues opened up by this broad public mobilization and what is the direction of new social and political cultural developments in the aftermath of Gezi protests? How will these recent developments affect the local elections in March 2014? And, what does the future hold for Turkey’s role in its broader region in light of these milestone events? Some of the larger (domestic) issues we will address are the role of political Islam in Turkish democracy, changing contours of state-society relations, and new (non-traditional) actors of democratic participation. We will also situate the events within Turkey’s current regional context (tensions in the Middle East, specifically the Syrian crisis, and Turkey-EU relations). We will specifically explore the question of whether the recent events imply a rejection of Turkish foreign policy under AKP rule that is increasingly defined by detachment from the European agenda on the one hand, and neo-imperial aspirations in the former Ottoman space, on the other.