Issue 42 – Symbolic Politics

Editors: Yücel Demirer, Bülent Batuman, Erkal Tülek

The Place of the University on the Right-Conservative Ideological Map in Turkey and METU as a Counter-symbol
Melek Zorlu

Recently growing oppression against the academy in Turkey has made it necessary to rethink the university as an idea and an institution. The particular dimension that this text seeks to discuss is the representation of the university in the right-conservative imaginary in Turkey, especially regarding the recent anti-METU rhetoric of the government. In doing so, the emphasis will be on the aspect of clash of civilizations, which is overlooked by confining it within the notion of “alienation from popular [folk] values”. The focus of the discussion will be on what the university represents to political power and to different social groups, and how it is culturally produced as the institution within which the relations of the society with knowledge are materialized.
Keywords: Conservatism, ideology, university, METU.

Republican Balls as a Phantasy of Modernity
Müzeyyen Ezel Ünal

The construction and experience of Republic Day balls as a demonstration of modernism performance during the early Republican era will be discussed in this review essay. The Republican Day balls used to offer the Republican elites with an opportunity to exhibit the extent of Occidentalisation and modernisation achieved both among themselves and particularly to the foreign representatives. For this reason, the aforementioned balls are significant as they serve indicative objective of aims, limitations, inclusions and exclusions of modernism in Turkey. The encounter of the young Republic with certain foreign representatives and the course of occurrences will be addressed throughout the essay based on the practice of transformation of dichotomies such as Occidentalism/Orientalism, modernity/traditionality, civilisation/culture, foreign/national into a
sort of performance by the Republican elites. Secondly, women’s position in terms of determining the limitations of the dichotomies is going to be discussed. We ultimately aim to question the power domain and means of power potentiality created by the current dichotomies frequently referred to by the Turkish modernisation and takes effect on current politics on behalf of the political elites mediated by a socio-cultural praxis such as the Republic Day balls.
Keywords: Republican balls, early Republican era, dance, modernity, Turkish modernization, Occidentalism, women, international politics.

Counter Memory vs. Memory: Audiocasettes in Turkish Cinema After 1990
Deniz Morva Kablamacı

It has been observed that various previously untouched problems and topics have been handled and new identities have find a voice in cinema since the middle of 1990s in Turkey while the use of visual, aural, written records as unofficial references has been increased. In this period the films that addressed Kurdish question are particularly significant since they required the unofficial facing the past by using unofficial records. The main objective of this research is to explore the relationship between directors’ experience as a member of the public about nationalism and the contribution of using unofficial records to unofficial facing the past. In this study qualitative research methodology was used and data were collected through structured interviews of three voluntary film directors (Özkan Küçük- Nohutlu Pilav, 2005; Orhan Eskiköy-Babamın Sesi, 2012; Mizgin Müjde Arslan, Ben Uçtum Sen Kaldın, 2012) who used “audiocassette” in their films. Findings show that cinema has a significant role in unofficial facing the past. Furthermore, the results indicate that directors constructed a counter memory by using audiocassettes in spite of the fact that there has not been any official facing the past and coming to terms with the past in Turkey. This research underlines the importance despite the political power’s intent to control collective memory.
Keywords: Counter Memory, Unofficial Facing the Past, Auidocassette, Cinema, Turkey.

Searching the Community in Symbols and Rebuilding the Identity: Memory, Locality and Politics in Dersim
Ülker Sözen

This article discusses the symbolic politics within the scope of Dersimi identity revival. From a historical point of view, it investigates how the social transformations and politicization of Dersimi people shape the production of identity symbols. Those symbols, derived from collective memory and locality, carry contextually-shifting meanings and purposes. Dersimi society seeks to recover the cultural values and sense of community which are thought to be on the verge of extinction. Competition among the multiple identity projects and political actors endows the field of Dersimi identity symbols with a contested and dynamic composition. Besides, the popularization of culture industry, social media and consumption channels in the recent years has provided a momentum to the symbolic expression of Dersimi identity.
Keywords: Dersim, identity politics, collective memory, community, resignification.

Space Avails to Destroy before Anything Else

Meltem Al

This paper asserts that all struggles for hegemony occur in a space, all actors seeking power fight each other to possess space and all actors who dominate a space disciplines the society by using that space. Ruling actors develop various spatial discipline methods by using the related geographical and spatial knowledge in order to perpetuate their existences. This text investigates how ruling actors discipline society through the space dominated by them and classifies these methods into six categories by the help of Michel Foucault’s researches on disciplining individuals and societies: expulsion, isolation, surveillance, invasion, representation and spatiocide. The paper intends to scrutinize these spatial discipline methods and open these methods to discussion by analyzing them through the current urban curfews and sieges in Turkey.
Keywords: Social discipline, spatial discipline, geographical information, spatial knowledge, hegemony, urbicide, spatiocide, urban crime, forensic architecture, social agency.

Actors, Processes and Opprtunities for Opposition in Symbolic Politics: The Example of Ankara Municipality Logo

Yücel Demirer

The Hittite Sun Disc Monument which was erected in the second half of the 1970s at one of the centers of Ankara, did not only refer to the Anatolian history before the Turks, but instigated the Ankara city emblem which had been in use for a long time until its replacement with a new one in the beginning of Melih Gökçek’s tenure in 1995. The new emblem showing Atakule Tower between the two minarets of Kocatepe Mosque was claimed to represent Ankara more successfully and caused a long term emblem competition. Based on the petitions and the news coverages, this article explores the evolution of the local politics towards religious nationalism in Ankara. It aims to accentuate the popularization of the historical background and the utilization of symbols and symbolic discourses for the sake of political sphere through analyzing the position of symbols in local political campaigns. Furthermore, the paper discusses alternative communication venues which are created by symbolic discourses, the formation of opposing symbolic agencies and the possibilities of political institutionalization based on the opposing symbolic discourses.
Keywords: Symbolic politics, symbolic agency and institutionalization, symbolic competition and opposition.

Everyday Life, Carnival and Resistance: Humour at Gezi
Adem Yeşilyurt

Gezi resistance was quite creative in staging humour. The much talked about posters, banners, slogans, street writings, tweets, adapted songs etc. which stood out in the days of the resistance are some of the concrete evidence of such humour. A generation, “accused” of being apolitical or at least described as such for years, has displayed a counter performance during the Gezi resistance showing that humour may also be used as a political strategy and thus has demonstrated the importance of symbolic politics. Within this framework, this article evaluates the way in which humour with this exact meaning, particularly the street writings reproduced via different channels are functionalized during the Gezi resistance as a tactic of oppressed people against the powerful. Drawing a theoretical framework to understand laughter, the street writings which emerged around the themes of AKP, police brutality and ideology will be analysed in this context, which will be followed by a discussion of the class character of this humour.
Keywords: Gezi Park, street writing, non-violent resistance, humour, laughter.

Symbolic Politics and Protest Culture in Turkey: A New Performativity after Gezi?
Pieter Verstraete
Translator: Mehmet Barış Gümüşbaş

In this article, I focus on performative protest acts and the role of the performing artist in Turkey during and after the Gezi Park uprisings. Through Butler’s understanding of ‘performativity’ (1993), I explain how some of Gezi’s ‘performative’ protest actions give evidence of a larger cultural transformation that is visibly continuing in new theatre plays. As such, it is my contention that
performing artists have contributed incontrovertibly through a chain of performative acts to Gezi’s ‘tactical repertoires’ (Tilly, 1978) as well as its symbolic politics (Sears, 1993) by means of a ‘new’ sense of performativity that, as a ‘structure of feeling’ (Williams, 1977), has become part and parcel of Turkish protest culture. One particular performative tactic of importance is explained through Peggy Phelan’s notion of ‘active vanishing’ (1993). I revisit the Standing Man action through this feminist notion and connect it to Hannah Arendt’s ‘space of appearance’ – as reread by Butler (2011) – in order to untangle a significant but so far unexpressed relation between staying unmarked and reclaiming a space for unacknowledged identities. With this, I intend to comprehend performative protest actions as integral to Turkey’s material culture of dissidence as well as to critique recent approaches in Theatre and Performance Studies that neglect the specific social and political aspects in interpreting them symbolically.
Keywords: Performative protest action, post-Gezi theatre, protest culture, tactical repertoire, identity politics, feminist critique.

Reading Foucault and Bourdieu Together through the Concepts of
Subjection and Symbolic Violence
Güney Çeğin – Gürhan Özpolat

In this study, focusing on the presence of conceptual continuity between the notions of “subjection” and “symbolic violence” in Foucault and Bourdieu, we try to reveal an aspect of the connections between the works and approaches of both thinkers. It is maintained that as Bourdieu established the concept of “symbolic violence”, Foucault’s thought is hidden somewhere in the background, that Bourdieu not only releases the process called “subjection” by Foucault from the existing stringent matrix of the philosophical resonance of the concept, placing it in a sociological
universe, but also supplement it.
Keywords: Subjection, symbolic violence, docile body, misrecognition, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu.