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Assoc. Prof. Demet Lüküslü - The problem of participation of young people in Turkey

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Workshop on Participation of Young People in Civil Society …

Workshop on Participation of Young People in Civil Society
15-16 November 2013
http://www.sebeke.org.tr/en/?page_id=179

Published in: News & Politics, Technology

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  • 1. THE PROBLEM OF PARTICIPATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN TURKEY Assoc. Prof. Demet Lüküslü Yeditepe University, Istanbul, Turkey dlukuslu@yahoo.com; dlukuslu@yeditepe.edu.tr
  • 2. ABOUT THE TITLE…     The title of my presentation is “The problem of participation of young people in Turkey. I have to say that while thinking about the title, I was inspired by the title of the article of Karl Mannheim, a classic today, “The Problem of Generations”. I have been doing research on youth in Turkey for quiet a long time now. I have started working on the topic with my undergraduate dissertation and continued with my MA and PhD. I finished my PhD in 2005 and I continue still doing research in the field of sociology of youth. I will try to give you an overall summary of my studies during those years since they are all related with participation of young people. And I think such an overview will summarize the main issues related with the problem of participation of young people.
  • 3. PHD     I have started doing research on youth in Turkey with my PhD dissertation (even though I have to add that my undergraduate and MA thesis were all related with youth). When I started searching for a research topic, it was the year 2000 and the dominant paradigm on youth in Turkey was defining youth as a depoliticized and apolitical category. As a PhD student I was interested in exploring and criticizing this dominant paradigm. A starting point was the literature review which made me see that there was not much written on the topic. There was very little qualitative research and most of the research was quantitative, various surveys (mostly on students )
  • 4. SURVEYS ON YOUTH IN TURKEY…     The surveys on youth in Turkey, published from the second half of the 1990s to the present (let‟s say until the Gezi Park resistance) indicated that young people feel a certain apathy toward the political sphere and their participation in political parties, political organizations or NGOs is low. The dominant paradigm based on these surveys rested on the idea that this is an apolitical generation, a “different” generation than previous generations. Whereas the previous generations were politically active, the so-called third generation of Turkey (the post-1980 generation) was considered as the generation of the military coup, neoliberalism and consumer society. This image, added to inactivity on the political scene that contrasts with that of previous generations, has further deepened the criticism against this younger generation.
  • 5. HISTORY OF YOUTH IN TURKEY & THE “MYTH OF YOUTH    Given these historical contrasts, I realized that a study on the history of youth in Turkey is necessary for better comprehension of the contemporary generation. If youth, as a social category, is indeed a construct of industrialization, urbanization, of modernity, then the emergence of youth as a social category in the history of modern Turkey dates from the 19th century modernization movements of the Ottoman Empire. I will not go into the details of this modernization process in this presentation but I believe that it is important to note that era witnessed the emergence of “modern” Western style schools where the generation underwent a “modern” form of socialization.
  • 6. THE “MYTH OF YOUTH”…    Interestingly, this modernization process constructed youth as a social and political category whose ultimate objective was to save the ottoman Empire from collapse and restore its glory. I refer to this definition of youth as a political category as the “myth of youth” and argue that it has been a key component of Turkish political culture since the 19th century. Although the empire‟s young generation accepted its political mission, it also believed that the way to save the empire was to rebel against the Sultan and his oppressive regime. Hence the Young Turk movement and the revolution of 1908 were in fact products of the modernization process.
  • 7. THE “MYTH OF YOUTH” AND THE REPUBLIC    Likewise, those who founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 were all members of the last generation of the empire and had inherited this myth of youth which therefore became the symbol of the young republic. The Republic’s first generation (1923-1950), a restricted group of those privileged enough to have received an education, was constructed according to the principles of the Republic and Kemalist ideology and is seen as the “vanguard” of the Republic. The second generation, the so-called 60’s and 70’s generations, were equally active as actors on the political scene. Whether they adhered to leftist or rightist movements, their ideologies centered on the State, and even when in conflict, each was loyal to the myth of youth and claimed to be the state‟s real vanguard.
  • 8. THE END OF THE MYTH OF YOUTH?  So the post-1980 generation symbolizes the end of the myth of youth in which young people are actively involved in the political space, a notion that has existed in Turkish political culture since the 19th century.
  • 9. POLITICAL APATHY?     I objected in my PhD thesis and in my postdoctoral research to the idea that young people‟s attitudes are associated only with apathy. The qualitative date- starting from my doctoral fieldwork in 2000 to present- show that: young people do not seem ignorant about the society or the world‟s difficulties but are in fact conscious of such problems and unhappy about living in a society with so many. they are highly critical of the political space, which seem far removed from their desires and needs. Thus in these young people‟s minds the traditional political space is a devalued one.
  • 10. DEVALORISATION OF THE TRADITIONAL POLITICAL SPACE      I argued that young people defined traditional political space as: a corrupted and clientelistic space an extremely rigid and untransformable space and, political organizations are “authoritarian” entities in which individuals can only either join a group or become a militant but cannot freely express and realize themselves. Interestingly, such negative perceptions of the traditional political space were also shared by young people active in civil society, who not only rejected conventional politics and ideologies but tended to situate themselves as above al ideologies.
  • 11. NECESSARY CONFORMISM     The sudden change from “inactive” “apolitical” young figure to young “actors” might seem as a surprise to those who defined the young generation as silent and obedient, for researchers who track traces of “discontent” and “resistance” in acts of silence and obedience, this situation is no mystery. I argue that a general characteristic of the young in Turkey is the “necessary conformism” that they adopt as a tactic, as an “art of living”. This concept of “necessary conformism” can only be read in a global, neoliberal, consumptionist context. Necessary conformism is not synonymous with apathy, but rather hides a real and strong discontent and can mask a profound agony.
  • 12. NECESSARY CONFORMISM…   Necessary conformism as a sociological concept for analyzing the young generations, take on from François Dubet‟s , Michel de Certeau‟s and Ulrich Beck‟s analysis. The necessary conformism echoes the necessary fictions of François Dubet: [Necessary fictions] are neither ideologies not moral convictions but cognitive and moral frameworks indispensable for the accomplishment of the socialization project… [They are fictions] in which actors do not really believe but canot renounce without their work emptying itself of meaning.   Michel de Certeau distinguishes between “tactic“ and “strategy” and defines tactic as the “art of the weak” whereas “strategy” is the “art of the powerful”. I argue that the young generation in Turkey seemingly choose to act in conformity with society‟s rules without really believing in them by inventing “tactics” rather than directly rebelling.
  • 13. NECESSARY CONFORMISM…     It is, however, important to note that necessary conformism is not synonymous with apathy, but rather hides a real and strong discontent and can mask a profound agony. According to the logic of necessary conformism, young people are only conformist when they believe it to be necessary, but they try to escape being so whenever possible. . Necessary conformism turns institutions into entities that are both dead and alive or, as Beck explains it, the young generation in individualized societies is an “actively unpolitical younger generation which has taken the life out of the political institutions and is turning them into zombie categories. In fact, this so-called unpolitical younger generation strategically employs the tactic of necessary conformism to turn institutions- whether family, educational or political- into zombie categories.
  • 14. NECESSARY CONFORMISM AND FEELING LIKE A CHAMELEON          Interestingly, even participants who were active in civil society and hoped to bring about change gave examples of necessary conformism. For them, necessary conformism was not only a tactic in everyday life; it was also a tactic for getting things done and achieving their goals in civil society. To explain thei conduct, they used expressions like: nabza göre şerbet vermek (to treat someone in a way calculated to please him/her), alavere dalavere (to trick someone by playing games), ayıya dayı demek (to flatter someone until he/she does what is demanded from him/her), huyuna gitmek (to indulge somebody), yerine göre politik davranmak (to act politically according to the situation), and karşılıklı olarak birbirini kandırmak (to reciprocally deceive).
  • 15. CYBERSPACE AS A YOUTHFUL SPACE  In the presence of many “zombie categories”, cyberspace in which young generation is especially active, offers a very “alive” and using Asef Bayat‟s terminology, “youthful” space characterized by,: “a particiular habitus, behavioral and cognitive dispositions that are associated with the fact of being „young‟‟- that is, a distinct social location between childhood and adulthood, where the youngster experiences „relative autonomy‟ and is neither totally dependent (on adults) nor independent, and is free from responsibility for other dependents (Bayat, 2010: 28)”.  Cyberspace offers a large platform for studying young people. I analyze three different websites which gained popularity in Turkey and which became important examples of how the young generation uses the new information technologies as a creative tool for creating a youthful space.
  • 16. CYBERSPACE IN TURKEY         I studied three websites, very different in nature: Ekşi sözlük (Sourtimes, www.sourtimes.org) Genç Siviller (Young Civilians, www.gencsiviller.net) Yüzde 52 (52 Percent, www.yuzde52.org) These three websites contain common characteristics which situate them within the contemporary generation in Turkey: a rejection of traditional politics; preoccupation with the present life and with drawing substance from everyday life; and the usage of humor, in particular black humor.
  • 17. REJECTION OF TRADITIONAL POLITICS   None of these websites claim to be sites containing political content in the traditional sense. In fact, a rejection of traditional politics and ideologies rather than an interiorization or acceptance is easily detected.
  • 18. PREOCCUPIED WITH THE PRESENT     A second common characteristic of these websites is a preoccupation with the present (not past or future, with which ideologies and political movements are usually preoccupied), life (rather than death) and private space (rather than public space). In fact, the criticisms made by each one of these three groups can be briefly summarized as criticism about the restrictions felt in everyday life (present life) and private space, especially restrictions on personal liberties. This is a characteristic that unites these three youth movements and separates them from traditional political movements. This characteristic also marks the end of what I call, the “myth of youth.” Since these movements reject involvement in political life and choose to be involved in private space rather than public or political space, they also reject the definition of youth as a political category destined to save or advance the State.
  • 19. USAGE OF HUMOR/ BLACK HUMOR     Third, the content of these websites draw substance from everyday life and also from popular culture. They draw on a language from everyday life rooted in humor and especially black humor. Many of the entries and titles in Ekşi Sözlük originate from the everyday life experiences of young people or from popular culture. In a similar manner, the Young Civilians, too, make references to stand-up comedian and other aspects of popular culture. Likewise, 52 Percent focuses on events from everyday life experiences of young people, such as university entrance exams. The anger they show in their protests is also the same anger they experience in their everyday lives because of neoliberalism, repressive policies of the military coup regime, gerontocratic politicians, or the repressive policies of the education system.
  • 20. GEZI PARK
  • 21. GEZI PARK…
  • 22. GEZI PARK…
  • 23. CONCLUSION: THE PROBLEM OF PARTICIPATION OF PARTICIPATION     Continuity of the myth of youth: the objective is to construct the youth Denial of agency; youth seen as “objects” rather than subjects Dominance of adult-centered point of view/ “not yet adults”- in the process of becoming adults Transformation of the myth of youth: The nation-state‟s (Kemalist) myth of youth is being replaced by a neoliberal and conservative one.
  • 24. CONCLUSION…   The young people in Turkey (the post-1980 generation) were not able to feel comfortable in traditional political space and they chose to stay away from politics and they chose to realize themselves in the private space. But the neoliberal and conservative myth of youth is intervening in the private space of young people.

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