[P4766] Precarious Visibility as a Mode of Governance: The Case of Alevis in Turkey

Created by Nazli Ozkan
Saturday, 11/18/17 5:30pm


Constituting roughly 15-20% of the population, Alevis comprise the second largest faith community after the majority Sunni Muslims in Turkey. Despite the newly founded nation-state's promise of equal citizenship, since the 1920s, the community suffered from discrimination and sporadic violence under Turkey's "secular" rule. In the 2000s, an overall narrative of democratization in Turkey, especially with the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) "Alevi Opening," shaped the ways in which Alevis became visible in the public sphere. A series of meetings held with some Alevi organizations as part of "the opening" fortified impressions of improvement in the community's sociopolitical positions. Official discourses targeting Alevis in the subsequent periods, especially in the context of the war in Syria and the Gezi uprising, however, contradicted these positive portrayals and revealed the discriminatory nature of the state rule once again. By focusing on this contentious period of the AKP rule, this panel examines shifting technologies of governance that targeted Alevis since 2002. The papers focus on a wide range of areas and episodes through which these technologies are produced and contested: parliamentary discussions on Alevis' problems between 2002 and 2007, public articulations of Alevism in the context of the war in Syria since 2011 and the Gezi uprising in 2013, Alevi television networks' portrayals of the 2014 "Alevi Opening," which was part of the government's 2015 election campaign, and official discourses targeting Alevis following the 2016 coup attempt. The panel argues that even in periods of "democratization," various mechanisms maintained the community's marginalized position to protect the hegemony of Sunni Islam. Such discourses on democratic improvement, however, fortify a "politics of anticipation," which postpone addressing the community's demands to an indefinite future while also circulating the impression that these demands are being addressed. These shifting governance techniques between recognition and discrimination then provide an insecure public visibility for Alevis while highly limiting their control over such visibility. It is through a tension between invisibility and hypervisibility that Alevis at times emerge as a politically "dangerous" group in public articulations especially in periods of heightened political tension. The papers engage in a wide range of theoretical discussions that are of great concern to the Middle Eastern studies: nexus between sectarianisation of politics and securitization, interaction of secularism and democratization, the tripartite interaction among invisibility, visibility, and hypervisibility, and shifting governance techniques between recognition and discrimination.





Ayfer Karakaya-Stump

(The College of William and Mary)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Gulay Turkmen

(University of Goettingen)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Besim Can Zirh

(Middle East Technical University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Ceren Lord

(University of Oxford)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Nazli Ozkan

(Northwestern University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer; Presenter;