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Sociology Colloquium, 10/19/2022

Politics of Nationhood and the Decay of the Media in Turkey

Defne OverDr. Defne Över, Texas A&M University

Existing studies of democratic backsliding highlighted the silent revolution in values, the breakdown of norms due to polarization, and the malleability of laws and constitutions as triggers for institutional decay. Adopting a cultural approach, this paper presents the role played by the politics of nationhood in the breakdown of democratic institutions. Politics of nationhood refers to the discourses and actions that constitute a political actor’s efforts to redefine insiders and outsiders of a nation. Exploring the Turkish media’s decay under the rule of Justice and Development Party (AKP), the paper demonstrates that AKP’s politics of nationhood lead to the breakdown of the media from within by reconstructing the cognitive and emotional worlds of journalists. Between 2007 and the 2010, AKP upended the previous construction of the nation through political trials and property seizures. In this context, pro-Islamic and liberal journalists came to think of their news practices as a means to empower the excluded, and attacked the secularists—often at the expense of violating journalistic standards–; secularists resigned, founded new outlets, or exercised self-censorship under increased feelings of uncertainty; and Kurds and leftists, confused by the possibility of punishing the perpetrators of previous exclusion, refrained from acting in solidarity with the newly contentious secularists and often used their journalistic agency to attack the previous power structure. Altogether, these forms of journalistic practice not only degraded the media from within but also contributed to the formation of the information environment that passed the 2010 referendum, a milestone in Turkey’s story of democratic backsliding.This argument builds on narrative evidence collected via in-depth interviews between 2012 and 2014, newspaper articles, and journalists’ memoires.

October 19, 2022
Wednesday, 12:00pm
Location: Liberal Arts Social Sciences Building (LASB) 317