SUITS has introduced new research areas as of fall 2018:

International Relations and Diaspora Studies

As a country with roots in both Europe and Asia, Turkey is often described as having a unique potential to serve as a crucial bridge between East and West. But Turkey is more complex than even the bridge metaphor suggests.

Geographically, it not only “bridges” West and East, but the Anatolian landmass and adjoining seas link together North Africa, southern Europe, Greece and the Balkans, Russia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. Through a common language, Turks are tied to perhaps 100 million Turkic speakers outside Turkey, in an area that stretches from the Caucasus to China. And the potential – though contested – for Turkey to serve as a conduit for natural gas from the Caspian Sea and the Middle East heading toward Europe further enhances the country’s strategic significance.

The AKP government has increasingly sought to capitalize on Turkey’s position as a “central country”, aiming to diversify its strategic ties. But it is now facing some difficult choices with respect to balancing relations with Russia on one hand, and its membership in the Atlantic alliance on the other. And while Turkey has been a candidate country for membership in the European Union since 1999, its relations with EU member states have also been fraught with serious difficulties over the past few years. Research on Turkey’s international relations explores these topics and more.

Europe is also home some 5 million ”Euro-Turks”, a diverse Turkish-origin diaspora made up of expats, asylum seekers, and labor migrants and their children, which include self-identified Turks as well as Kurds, Alevis, Assyrians, Zaza, Armenians and others. Many of them retain strong ties to their heritage language, culture, and/or country, and the Turkish government has in recent years taken a much more active role in how it relates to this diaspora. Research on the Turkish-origin diaspora conducted at SUITS looks at questions of identification and integration, language acquisition, immigrant associations, intergroup relations and conflict (management) within the diaspora, and Turkish diaspora management policies.
Paul T Levin
Seren Selvin Korkmaz

Society, Politics and History

Turkey has a long and fascinating history that, in a variety of ways, continues to influence society and political life in the present. The Ottoman Empire spanned five centuries, followed by nearly a hundred years of Republican Turkey. Historians and social scientists are interested in the intricacies of any given era, but also in evidence of continuities and discontinuities over time.

SUITS research explores state and society relations during the Ottoman Empire and their resonance in the present in terms of institutions and the state's relation with its citizens. Researchers also have focused on characteristics of the population, such as, religion, ethnicity, race, and gender, as these affect national identity and promote alternative visions of society. In recent decades, Muslim religiosity has become associated with political party affiliation, economic success, a building boom, and the rising popularity of religiously inspired fashion, commodities and lifestyles.  Issues like these, as well as urbanization, gentrification, poverty and environmental degradation, have become targets for social activism and political resistance, all of which has expanded the range of research. The Ottoman Empire itself has made a comeback as politicians and social actors hold aloft a model of the past to explain their actions in the present. Such ideas have strongly affected Turkey's view of itself as a nation and of its place in the world. SUITS also is interested in studies that examine the underlying premises and mechanisms at play in autocracy, populism, factionalism, leadership, civil society and gender in Turkey.

Jenny White
Cengiz Candar
Imren Borsuk
Ahmet Gurata: focus on media and film studies

Democracy and Human Rights

The current research at SUITS concerning these themes – democracy and human rights – has been historical, behavioural scientific, comparative and systematic-theoretical in character. A key question common to several research projects has been concerned with the specific characteristics of Turkey throughout history, and why a democratic development with human rights as a foundation has been lined with such severe problems.

Questions concerning human rights and democracy are in the centre of political and academic debates concerning Turkey. The post-war period has been characterized both by limited successes and setbacks in terms of democratic development and respect for human rights.

Comparative studies with reference also to China has been initiated. A question in this context has been why Turkey and China has shown so different trajectories since the introduction of their republics and “the end” of their empires in the beginning of the 20the century.

In relation to concepts and themes such as populism, neo-authoritarianism, religious and cultural pluralism and secularism the current political development in Turkey has been analysed by several of the researchers at SUITS. More specific issues concerning, for example, state of emergency policies have also been addressed as well as the place of religion in society. Democratic activism in civil society organizations has also been studied. Further, Turkey´s role in the European Council has been addressed as a research topic. Scholars at our institute have also recently focused upon conceptualizations of citizenship and corresponding rights and liberties in Turkey in the eyes of citizens.

Hans Ingvar Roth
Bengi Ruken Cengiz