On 5 October, she spoke about the culture of politics in Turkey for the Utrikespolitiska Föreningen in Uppsala.

As a new professor at SU, on 19 September at the main campus she gave her Stockholm University inaugural lecture. In this talk, Professor White described her interaction with Turkey, beginning with her first encounter in the 1970s to the present, through the lens of her many research projects. Her research questions reflect changes in Turkey during that time.

She also gave the keynote address at the 30 September Inauguration Ceremony for professors. This ceremony, which also includes the conferment of honorary doctorates and doctoral degrees, is held in the same place as the Nobel Prize celebration, Stockholm City Hall, with its unrivaled pageantry and roots in tradition.

 

 

Retrospective and hint at what's to come

Her inaugural lecture and her other talks were both a review of the shape her scholarship took over the past few decades and a hint at what is to come.

Throughout her career she has studied topics ranging from Turkey's economic opening, political Islam and nationalism to gender issues. At present, she is working on an intimate history of social and political violence in Turkey in the 1970s. She is particularly interested in the role of reciprocity and mutual obligation and, in contrast, hostile group formation in organizing economic and political life.

The "good woman"

Her master's degree in social psychology focused on Turkish women who had migrated to Germany to work in the 1970s. Deciding that psychological methodology was too constraining, she pursued a PhD in social anthropology. Her dissertation research in the 1980s examined the globalized market economy that had replaced the economic privation and political street violence of the 1970s. Her research examined the paradox by which women worked long hours in their homes, producing for the world market under exploitative conditions, but were unable to admit to working, since a "working woman" was a cultural taboo. Her study revealed that, while the women were exploited at the level of global capital, at another level, they proved that they were "good women", freely donating their labor to family and community. In so doing, the women forged relations of mutual obligation and assistance that were more secure in the long term than money.

Networks and identities

In the 1990s she investigated the rise of Islamist political parties in a large conservative area of Istanbul that had switched their votes from a secular to an Islamist party. Since the voters had not become more religious, Professor White wondered why they had switched. She learned that the Islamist parties were much better at organizing at the grassroots level, mobilizing many conservative people, especially women. They developed networks based on relations of mutual obligation with others in their neighborhood, harnessing reciprocity for political mobilizing. During the 2000s, she examined the changing understanding of what it meant to be Muslim in Turkey and to be Turkish, as well as the development of what she called Muslim nationalism.

Now she has come full circle, using her knowledge of group culture and networks to examine the causes of the political violence that tore Turkey apart in the 1970s and to develop a model for understanding political upheaval and polarization. Her latest research relies partly on interviews with people of different political, social, religious and ethnic backgrounds about their experience of the 1970s.

Jenny White first came to SUITS in 2013-14 as a Distinguished Visiting Professor on sabbatical from her professorship at Boston University. In 2015 she returned to SUITS as a “kallad” professor, specifically chosen by the Vice-Chancellor to receive the title.