Visiting Scholars

2014-2015

Untitled1Slavka Karakusheva is a visiting TÜBİTAK fellow at KPY, İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi. She is a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology at the Department of History and Theory of Culture, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. She graduated with MA in Cultural Anthropology (2010) and BA in Cultural Studies (2008), both from Sofia University. In 2013 Slavka was also a 3-month visiting ERASMUS fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies – University College London.

Her research focuses on migration and collective belongings and in particular analyzes the role social media play on the construction of collective identities today. In her PhD project she looks at the community of the Turks from Bulgaria, settled in two different national contexts (in Turkey and Bulgaria).

Current research interests: ethnic and national identities, memory studies, migration, anthropology of media.

PhD Project – a Brief Overview

Title: Digital Ethnicities? How New Media (Re-)Create Collective Identities today

Combining classical ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with online observation and digital ethnography methods, the PhD project focuses on the role social media play in the processes of construction of collective identities today. Based on a multi-sited approach, the research proposes a comparative study on the community of the Turks from Bulgaria, settled in two different national contexts (in Turkey and Bulgaria) and establishing transnational connections and networks. The study follows the narratives, symbols and products crossing the borders, analyzes their importance for the communities and relates it with the constant mobilty of people and the communication oportunities new media are providing.

As a result of very complex politics of the Bulgarian national state towards its Turkish minority, a huge number of the latter moved to Turkey in different migration waves in the 20th century, the biggest of which in the summer of 1989. Some, unable to adapt, returned to Bulgaria later, others never left it. Irrespectively of which country they have chosen to build their “homes”, they remain in active communication due to various kinds of relationships – family and relative bonds, friendship, business opportunities, education. This results nowadays in often border crossings – in the realm of the reality, when people visit relatives and places or import products from the other location, in the virtual realm – in the simultaneous circulation of information about both locations in social media and in the world of the dreams and imagination. The mobility of people, products, memories and ideas are importing images from the other location and thus constructing a narrative for identification among the members of the community in two constantly interacting dimensions – ‘we are Turks’ but also ‘we are from Bulgaria’.

The research is taking a critical position towards both primordialistic and constructivist approaches in theorizing collective (ethnic and national) identities, focussing on the active role of the individuals themselves in creating conditions for sharing collective belongings. Due to historical reasons, the national identity project in Bulgaria is constructed in an opposition to the Muslim religion and the Ottoman heritage and the Turkish population (seen as natural successors of the Empirical rule) is left at a marginal social position and limited participation in the public sphere. The Turkish state, on the other hand, considers the newcomers in the framework of “ethnic kinship” (soydaş), i.e. as people who are unconditionally part of the nation, explaining it with common blood bounds and religious background. On a micro-level however multiple daily social and consumption practices, religious rituals and marriage taboos establish the group boundaries and are used as living strategies for integration to and separation from cultural models of both locations. The study argues that social media provide an opportunity for people to participate actively in the processes of creating information, cultural memory and social activism in relation to forming collective belongings nowadays. Thus people are able to create alternative or additional to the national identity narration and this “bottom-up” production shall make us rethink the notion of belonging and the construction of identities in today’s mobile and mediated world.

Emre Barca is a PhD student in Sociology at Lancaster University. After receiving his MA degree in Cultural Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University with a thesis focused on Jacques Derrida’s writings on autobiography, he commenced his doctoral research on Sovereign Terror after September 11. Currently living in Istanbul, he is also the coordinator of a ‘Matra – Human Rights Program’ project about freedom of information, co-organized by Istanbul Bilgi University, Illusion-Istanbul and Dialogue for Common Future Association.

Current research interests: Political violence, terrorism, sovereignty, Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin

PhD Project – a Brief Overview

The event(s) of September 11 has not just put an indelible mark on the world history and silently left the socio-political realm. Considering the ‘war on terror’, renascent security state, new migration laws, rising radical right and Islamophobia, it still has a certain influence on social relations, and both domestic and international politics. What makes that event so influential and also ‘world-embracing’ is its symptomatic character that reveals a long-standing crisis of liberal western democracies. From right to intervention to the suspension of domestic and international laws, and from secular politics to religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence, western politics faces a crisis of sovereignty both in terror and terrorizing. ‘Sovereign terror’ hence designates the so-called sovereign’s political responses to the terrorism of September 11, which lead to another terror destroying its own foundations of sovereignty.

From a conceptual point of view, if sovereign is simply the one who claims a power/authority over an entity including one’s self, then terror is an inevitable part of it. Indeed, beginning from the self, sovereign is not only threatened from outside but also under the attack of inner forces some of which constitute its very sovereignty. This is why sovereign is almost always in terror and terrorizing both his self and other in a suicidal fashion. Founded upon such a conception of sovereignty, the response of western politics to September 11 is autoimmune in a way that it suspends its own law and destructs its own principles that justify its sovereignty. Problematizing this conception and focusing on the period called post-9/11, Emre’s research addresses the various manifestations of ‘sovereign terror’.

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