Keyman program hosts conference to explore Turkey’s recent political turn toward authoritarianism

December 19, 2017


Researchers from across the U.S. and around the world convened on October 26 to 28 at Northwestern to dissect Turkey’s current politics and rule of law.

The conference, hosted by the Buffett Institute’s Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program, brought together a group of specialists and academics to present research on topics like “Authoritarianism, Past and Present,” “Legal Ambiguity, Political Control and Contention in Urban Turkey” and “Turkey’s Authoritarianism in a Comparative Perspective.” Other topics included impunity, judicial politics, environment, gender, and the media.

Turkey has often been referred to as a working model for democracy in the Muslim world, where faith and modern governance could live side by side. Conference attendees examined the recent political developments in Turkey that threaten democracy, rule of law, and academic freedom.

Keyman-7043.jpgTurkey now is a place where freedom of expression is largely curtailed for academics,” said Ayça Alemdaroğlu, associate director of the Keyman program. “Our main goal with this conference was to facilitate academic dialogue and exchange without fear of censorship.

“Organizing a conference on law and politics in Turkey is timely because Turkey’s authoritarian turn needs to be documented, unpacked, and perhaps demystified through critical scholarship. Additionally, the scholarship itself must be discussed and rehabilitated as uncertainty, intimidation, and violence loom large over academia.

“Our conference was quite a success on both these fronts: it brought together cutting-edge research on Turkey’s democratic backsliding, but also provided a stage for scholars working on Turkey.”

As populism continues to rise in Turkey and around the world, the conference was an important opportunity to hold comparisons and glean lessons that can be applied globally.

Keyman1027-7163.jpg“The papers presented at our conference provided well-grounded narratives on how Turkish authoritarianism was constructed through legality and extra-legality, unexpectedly providing glimpses of hope that it could be de-constructed, too,” said Alemdaroğlu.

“Rise of populist authoritarianism is a global phenomenon, and Turkey is not the only country in the world that is experiencing an institutional decline in its democratic capabilities. The conference did not, therefore, unfold as an area-specific event, but rather one example in Turkey that was conceptualized in a global perspective, having repercussions above and beyond the borders of a single country.”

Asia, Europe, Human Rights, Law