International seminar with guests from Turkey: 29th of September 2012 in BerlinAlmost 10 years ago the Justice and Development Party (AKP) succeeded an instable coalition of parties which managed the 2001 financial crisis in Turkey. Although obviously representing a continuity in neoliberal economic policies, AKP has been perceived by many of its supporters as an alternative to ‘the old and corrupt parties‘, as an expression of ‘Anatolian subalterns against Western dominance‘ and therefore as a ‘conservative-democratic‘ response to the ‘authoritarian and elitist laicism‘. Moreover, AKP government – ‘pluralist in religious and cultural terms‘ – was showing a strong commitment to EU integration process. Despite being part of a strategy of self-description, this perception was widely accepted among scholars particularly in Western countries. It found its strongest critiques not abroad, but in Turkey itself.
Today, the picture of an AKP-led democratization project is more and more challenged. The level of violence against political opponents reached a new peak in 2011 and raised - together with more recent reforms - many questions about AKP’s stance towards religious plurality and the so called Islamist networks. The repression against critical intellectuals and activists together with the massive oppression of the Kurdish movement as well as the re-militarization of the conflict have raised serious concerns about the democratic character and the cultural plurality ascribed to AKP, even among scholars formerly supporting the AKP. As many critical scholars in Turkey indicate, the close relation between Political Islam and the ruling AKP cannot be reduced to single incidents such as the ban of alcohol in public spheres or the introduction of Quranic courses in schools.
In fact, a deeper societal transformation is taking place, which requires more attention in order to understand the logic behind the mentioned developments as well as their interrelation. The nexus between Political Islam, Nationalism and Neoliberalism established by AKP appears as a hegemonic project able to maintain or even broaden popular support, whereas resistance against it remains fragmented. Neoliberal policies (e.g. privatization of public goods, valorization of space) are bolstered by the centralization of political power together with the militarization of social conflicts labeled as “fight against terrorism”. The conference therefore aims to assess the specific character of this apparently strong nexus by focusing on several fields: the political economy of Islamist-run municipalities and their impact on AKP’s quest for a new hegemonic project, the recognition of the Kurdish identity as an AKP-specific mode of islamic-conservative nationalism and its links to foreign policy as well as the Neo-Islamist visions of society in the context of neoliberal urbanity and the regulation of everyday life.
The three workshops will be held in English (please register!). The panel discussion addresses a broader audience and will be translated from English to German.
10.30 Opening: welcome by the hosts and introduction to the topic
11.00-13.00 Workshop with Ali Ekber Doğan: Political economy of Islamist-run municipalities and their impact on AKP’s quest for a new hegemonic project
Host: Ismail Karatepe
13.20-15.20 Workshop with Cenk Saraçoğlu: Islamic-Conservative nationalism and AKP: reflections on foreign policy and the Kurdish question
Host: Errol Babacan
15.20-16.20 Lunch break (free lunch is being offered on the premise of RLS)
16.20-18.20 Workshop with Ayse Çavdar: Neo-Islamist visions of society in the context of neoliberal urbanity and the regulation of everyday life
Host: Axel Gehring
19.00-21.30 Panel discussion with all our guests: Neoliberalism and Political Islam in Turkey under AKP rule: a new hegemonic project?
Hosts: Anne Steckner & Errol Babacan
Dr. Ali Ekber Doğan is an assistant professor at Mersin University, Turkey. His research is on the political economy of urban politics in Turkey, Islamist municipalities, struggles for the right to the
Dr. Cenk Saraçoğlu is working on migration, nationalism, urban transformation and ethnic relations with a particular focus on Turkey. He is a member of the editorial committee of the Turkish academic journal Praksis.
Ayse Çavdar is a journalist and works for the Turkish magazine Express. Her research covers political Islam, media, agriculture and urban transformation in Turkey.
Venue: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Franz Mehring Platz 1, 10243 Berlin
Registration and contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Hosted and funded by: Bildungswerk Berlin der Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie), Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung and editorial board of Infobrief Türkei (www.infobrief-tuerkei.blogspot.de)