Turkey At A Distance – OpEd


By Dilek Karal

Once I attended a design and creativity seminar given by a widely known manager. Mostly composed of university students, the audience directed to the speaker a general question on how he achieved creativity when designing some new products. His answer was as complicated as it seemed simple. He said “First, I deconstruct the item, and take every piece as unique. Such that I can multiply the possibilities that item may be.” This was the time I met the idea of deconstruction as a way to creative answers years before I decided to study sociology. Although not thoroughly applicable in social life, the idea became one part of my lenses whenever I try to develop some kind of sociological imagination toward social issues.


Developing sociological imagination through wearing lenses of sociology takes years. First, you should take issues from a distance and depersonalize them. Depending on your point of view, you can deconstruct the social issues, focus on symbolic aspects of reality or totalize the facts. That is a choice.

Since then I moved to Ethiopia three months ago, I have been following Turkey in the news and trying to understand Turkey at a distance. I also seek some sort of a sociological analysis if possible. News full of protests, anger, and debates between diverse parties on number of issues, whether it be the right to education in a mother-tongue for the Kurdish population, or Turkey’s Republic Day celebrations, or a new constitution. Hunger strikes persist while some support the people’s right to put their lives first before bettering others’. Besides, one of our well-known actresses announced on a TV program her fear of women wearing headscarves decoding one of my country’s age’s old secular fears. On the other hand, suspicion regarding one of Turkey’s prominent ex-president’s death stands still: Did he die by being poisoned or not?

When it is your own country whose problems you are following at a distance, it is very hard to stay calm and objective. Even as you dig into micro constituents of any social problem, sometimes it gets harder and harder to come up with an analysis since you are not a stranger but an actor in it. As an embarrassment to my modern sociology history, my problem with analysis starts at the first pace: Depersonalization. I understand the necessity to stay at a distance to analyze these issues, yet I cannot do that. Even though I am physically away I feel totally embedded with these problems to the very edges of my nerves. Unfortunately I take it all very personally.

Every country comes with its own realities which determine people’s lives.

Then I direct my gaze to the country that I started to live in, Ethiopia, where about 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and up to 10 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance. Where around half of the households do not have an improved source of drinking water and where people live 20 years less than us just because they are born in this country. No need to say more…

Having such intermingling topics in mind, whether you accept being trapped by ideology and undermine opposing facts or you try to shout what you believe to be truth, again, it is just a simple matter of choice. And I choose to take these issues that we discuss in Turkey as twinges of democratization. They show our quest for larger rights for all and demand to go beyond a clientelistic democracy. That’s why I keep my faith in defending others’ right to defend themselves although I do not believe in their cause.

As you see, for sure, Turkey has a terrifyingly live agenda even at a distance.

Dilek Karal
USAK Center for Social Studies


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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