Interview with Dr. Erkan SAKA on Media and Politics

February 1, 2010 by Changing Turkey

1. Could you tell us a bit about your recent/forthcoming publications?

I had produced three articles/essays during my dissertation research. One was related to a theoretical discussion on Assemblage (Marcus George E. and Erkan Saka, 2006, ?Assemblage?, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 23(2?3): 101?109.), one on my blogging experience (Blogging as a research tool for ethnographic fieldwork) and finally on one of research findings (Saka, Erkan. ?Yol vs Kapı: Journalistic Metaphors in Understanding EU-Turkey Relations? in Shifting Landscapes: Film and Media in European Context. eds.  Miyase Christensen and Nezih Erdogan. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008 ).

I will probably work on to publish something on my dissertation topics in near future. An interview with me on youth and civic participation through web will be published in a book and I plan to write an ethnographic article on performing of military service in Turkey.

2. What are the potential limitations of the existing analyses on Turkish politics and society, in your opinion? Could you suggest any gaps in the literature or any potential pitfalls?

Let me think through listing possible sources of limitations:

a) Ideological: This is particularly the case with ?domestic? researchers. Turkish researchers are trapped into ideological positions they already have. Although intellectuals imply to be distanced from major polarizations, they indeed become ?organic intellectuals? in Gramscian terms. This results in dull, pre-determined research results. Hence non-academic interventions in terms of analysis sometimes produce better insights on social phenomena. Hence, columnists among others function like cultural analysers. This happened many works on Islamic movements and now happening on Kurdish studies.

b) Impact of ?pack journalism? ( What I mean is that many studies focus on the same topic and so much scholarly energy yields not much after a while. I believe many more substantive studies needed to be done on Islamic movements or the Kurdish question or European Union and Turkey relations or some kind of big globalization issue but these trendy topics dominate the scholarly scene so powerfully that new substantive openings cannot be opened and repetitive results emerge in polarized fashions.

c) Funding: Interestingly enough, in very broad terms, between 1980-2000s, Turkey did not seem to be a field to invest research funding by international research funding institutes (in fact, American institutes, in my mind). Well, while I was applying for grant, I could not generate excitement among the anthropology grant centres back in the US. Turkey was not exotic enough to do research. Or Turkey was not geo-politically significant after Cold War. Now it all changes, it seems. In the mean time, Turkish institutes like TÜBİTAK now offer grants for social science research. This will definitely boost researcher morale.

3. Could you suggest any Turkey-focused research you?ve found valuable to our readers?

I have to admit, I have missed the most recent works while I was trying to finish up my dissertation and then serving the mandatory military service.  In general, I always find Prof. Nilüfer Göle?s works insightful. She had gone beyond stereotypical approaches to Islamist phenomena in Turkey. Some edited volumes always functioned as roadmap for me. For instance:

Turkish State, Turkish Society (Routledge Publications of the Soas Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies) by Andrew Finkle and Nükhet Sirman

Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey (Publications on the Near East, University of Washington) by Sibel Bozdogan and Resat Kasaba

Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey by Deniz Kandiyoti and Ayse Saktanber

Michael Meeker?s works such as A Nation of Empire: The Ottoman Legacy of Turkish Modernity by Michael E. Meeker were also eye-opening. The latter was also significant as the fieldwork took place in Black Sea region of Turkey.

Finally, I should mention Martin Stokes whose impact on popular culture studies cannot be denied:

The Arabesk Debate: Music and Musicians in Modern Turkey (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology) by Martin Stokes (Hardcover ? Feb 25, 1993)

But I definitely does injustice for many other researchers. There are many other studies that I overlook here. Please forgive me for that. And I would like to highlight that many of my colleagues are finishing their dissertations (or recently finished) and I strongly believe a new generation of Turkish scholars will make a difference in Turkish studies.

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