Report on a seminar devoted to the Gezi events

The volume In the Aftermath of Gezi: From Social Movement to Social Change?, with contributors from a multidisciplinary array of anthropologists, political scientists and historians, was launched at a seminar on 8 December, 2017, at the Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History, Boğaziçi University. The book was introduced by the former director of the Swedish Research Institute at Istanbul, Professor Birgit Schlyter, under whose auspices a workshop had been organized on this topic in May, 2015.

In the midst of a cadre of academics, activists and students, Dipak Malik, professor emeritus of Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India and currently affiliated with the Stockholm-Istanbul Program for Central Asian and Turkic Studies, made the initial comments on the volume. He discerned four perspectives that the articles deal with: (1) Gezi and its historical trappings, (2) the city as a site of political and civic manifestation, (3) the overbearing state and its interventions, and (4) the role of social media and cyber connectivity. The first portion discusses the historical antecedents – Gezi as a product of basic contradictions between environmentalists, modernists and minorities versus state intervention. It dwells on the lingering Kurdish question, white versus black Turk polarization, the moment as a goal-oriented activity or transformative agency of consciousness. The editors Oscar Hemer and Hans-Åke Persson as well as Asu Aksoy and Ayhan Kaya contribute to the discourse.

The city as a site of political and civic manifestation along with the right to city space is dealt with by Spyros Sofos and a few others discussing issues such as encroachment by the private sector permitted under the neo-liberal economic initiatives of the municipal park and other public spaces and commons, environmental concerns, demolition of settlements of minority and queer communities, and direct intervention of the state without wide public consultations. The state comes under heavy scrutiny of almost all the papers except for two contributions (Hikmet Kırık and Anita Sengupta), where the authors instead explain the evolution of the AKP concurring that the new polity should be seen differently than the cacophony of voices in Gezi.

The instrumentality of the movement was a novelty in the form of social media-led connectivity. Surprisingly, it was spontaneous, leaderless and egalitarian. Gezi was a movement by tweets, whereas televised versions and the print media had a subdued role.

In addition to the book launch, Professor Asım Karaömerlioğlu, Director of the Atatürk Institute for Modern Turkish History, gave a talk calling Gezi a new moment of the millennial generation of Turkey with echos on the global scale. He argued that Gezi had been essentially a feminist upsurge comparing it to the 1968 student revolts in Europe and USA, which had been patriarchal in nature.

The seminar concluded in a lively discussion and insightful comments from the audience.



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