MESP Graduate Study Abroad Note: Aykut Ozturk in Turkey
I am a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Syracuse University.
My research revolves around the question of political cleavages. Why do some people identify
themselves with a particular social movement, rather than the other? Why are some people more
passionate about political parties, compared to other people? I approach these questions from
several different perspectives. In my dissertation, I study effective ties to political parties through
survey data and survey experiments. In addition to this, I also study the Islamist-secular cleavage
in the context of Middle Eastern countries.
In 2017, I applied for a Moynihan Institute Middle Eastern Studies Summer Research Grant with
the goal of conducting research on the Islamist-secular cleavage in the context of Turkey. One of
the central characteristics of current Middle Eastern politics is the weakness of class-based political organizations. I believe that in order to explain this process, we need to look at the discourse
and policies of Islamist political movements in the region. I thought that an especially relevant
organization for this research was Hak-Is, Islamist trade unions confederation of Turkey established in 1978. Thus, I applied for a summer research grant in order to conduct research on Hak-Is
during the summer of 2017. Moynihan Institute generously supported my research.
I flew to Turkey in June 2017. My main goal was going through periodical journals published by Hak-Is since its establishment. I
especially wanted to analyze the discourse of Hak-Is about class-based movements. At Hak-Is archives located in Ankara, I went
through more than 100 journals. In addition to Hak-Is archives, I also visited the National Library in Ankara. National Library
includes various materials on Hak-Is published since 1970s. This material further helped me to develop and support my arguments regarding activities of Hak-Is. Not everything went as planned, however. I was planning to support my archival research
with interviews of old and new Hak-Is officials. Unfortunately, my IRB application was not approved before I went to the field.
Thus, I could not conduct interviews to support this research.
My research on Hak-Is has been published by the journal Middle Eastern Studies in February 2018. The article is titled as
“Islamists against the class cleavage: identity formation and interest representation in the case of Hak-Is in Turkey.” In the article, I first demonstrate that the identity of Hak-Is has consistently been based on a fantasy of social cohesion and aversion to
class-based politics. Building on this, I detail how Hak-Is developed new economic and political practices, in a deliberate effort
to overcome class-based unionism. Finally, I argue that the role of Hak-Is evolved into representing workers’ interests within the
framework of the corporatist regime built by pro-Islamic AKP government. Overall, I believe that this research has contributed
to our knowledge on the formation of political cleavages in Middle Eastern countries. I thank the Moynihan Institute and the
Middle Eastern Studies Program for supporting my research.