Call for Papers – The Making of Political Culture in Turkey

The AKP-led government (and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) is accused of ruling the country in an authoritarian manner. However, when it took office in 2002 the AKP claimed to run up against a political culture characterized by militarism, authoritarianism and injustice. The AKP is no exception but one of many political actors in Turkey that claim or have claimed to strive for a new political culture, albeit little changes. Turkey’s political culture is associated with authoritarian political actors: a strong state (devlet baba) that engages in top-down, paternalistic relations with its citizens, and even a deep state (derin devlet), a strong role of the military that often resorted to violence, and a ‘national identity’ and its heavy rejection, political interactions based on conflict, not consensus, and a weak and/or politicized civil society. Political culture as the “belief systems, attitudes, values and mentalities affecting political behaviour” (Wehling, 1993, 91) sets the rules for the political game in Turkey. Our panel seeks to provide answers to the following questions:

If we refuse to perceive authoritarianism as an integral part of ‘Turkish culture’ what may be possible reasons for its persistence? What are other aspects of political culture? To which extend does it mirror previous political experiences of Turkish society and the ‚answers‘ it found for its solution (Rohe, 2003, 113). If we assume that there is a difference between politics as theorized and politics as practiced and that political culture is distilled from previous ‘answers’: What do laws and leaders needs to respond to, to deploy efficiency? Do leaders need to use certain tools (e.g. authoritarianism) to master challenges? What are the factors in the making of political culture in Turkey? Where are overlappings between political culture, collective historiography and the life histories of people in Turkey? Which role does collective memory play? What is the “unsayable” or “undoable”, which boundaries for action does political culture set? Have they been expanded by particular events or actors, and if so, did these expansions persist?

Which role do authoritarianism and competing authorities play? If there is a relationship between trust and the degree of democratization (Putnam, 1994) which role do public institutions play to generate trust? Can a relation between a state’s institution (and degree of institutionalization?) and its political culture be determined? Which aspects of political culture allow for cooperation, which encourage conflict? Which role do informal (or even illegal) practices play for political culture? What is the social function of informal practices such as the use of backdoor channels, lobbying, but also patronage or corruption play (Güneş-Ayata, 1990; Sayarı, 2014) How are politics pursued on a daily basis as inseparable aspects of people’s reality of life? What are the social, economic and cultural factors influencing and being influenced by political culture in Turkey? Politics in Turkey is characterized by only few female actors. In addition, predominantly members of certain social classes seem to ‘make it to the top’: We thus ask what role do gender and class play in the making of political culture in Turkey?

The idea that political culture is not inherent to the state but shared by the citizens is taken on by Asef Bayat in his ‘Life as Politics’ (Bayat, 2010) and with regard to the Islamist movement in Turkey also by Tuğal (2009). Until recently politics in Turkey have been analyzed through a centre-periphery lense (Mardin, 1973) characterized by a strong state and a weak civil society. How did a party as the AKP, rooted ideologically in a political-religiously motivated social movement shape political culture? Is there just one political culture in Turkey or are there maybe plural cultures? What are differences and similarities between geographical regions, parties or social groups? What is the ‘culture of everyday politics’ (Joppien, 2015), how does political action such as mobilization, decision-making, protest, leadership style, and patterns of interaction adapt to different contexts to be maximally effective? Are some parties, e.g. the CHP more ‘elitist’ than others? Or do strong party presidents instead level all differences with regard to contents? Which role does the use of symbols, clothing, election design, official buildings and office equipment play for political (party) culture (Rohe, 2003, 11-117)?

We invite case studies as well as comparative research from fields such as History, Islamic studies, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics, Administrative Studies, Gender Studies, Geography etc. We encourage comparative studies or those highlighting up to now understudied aspects of political culture, e.g. the use of language in political discourse. By the combination of empirical studies and theory we achieve to develop a more coherent understanding of political culture in Turkey than current literature can provide. We plan a publication that reflects the outcome of the workshop.

Please send your proposal (title, a 300 word abstract in English) and a one page CV until 21 February 2016 to

The panel is organized as part of Turkologentag Please note that participants need to pay the admission fee for Turkologentag.

Bayat, A. (2010). Life as Politics. How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Güneş-Ayata, A. (1990). Class and Clientalism in the Republican People’s Party. In A. Finkel & N. Sirman (Eds.), Turkish State, Turkish Society (pp. 159–183). London: Routledge.
Joppien, C. (2015). Culture of Everyday Politics. Politics of Everyday Culture. An Inquiry into Municipal Politics in Turkey. Unpublished PhD-Thesis. Macquarie University, Sydney.
Mardin, Ş. (1973). Center-Periphery Relations. A Key to Turkish Politics? Daedalus, 102(1), 169–190.
Putnam, R. (1994). Making Democracy Work. Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rohe, K. (2003). Politische Kultur und ihre Analyse. In A. Dornheim & S. Greiffenhagen (Eds.), Identität und politische Kultur (pp. 110–126). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
Sayarı, S. (2014). Interdisciplinary Approaches to Political Clientelism and Patronage in Turkey. Turkish Studies, 15(4), 655–670.
Tuğal, C. (2009). Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Wehling, H.-G. (1993). The Significance of Regional Variations. In D. Berg-Schlosser & R. Rytlewski (Eds.), Political Culture in Germany (pp. 91–101). London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.