Turkey in the 1960s: Social change and political radicalization
International conference at Hamburg University, Germany
Turkish Studies Department
June 26-28, 2014
Dr. Berna Pekesen, Hamburg University, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Dept. Turkish Studies
Prof. Dr. Yavuz Köse, Hamburg University, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Dept. Turkish Studies
The Turkish Studies Department at University Hamburg with the financial support of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) will host an international multidisciplinary conference on social change and political radicalization in Turkey in the 1960s.
As in other countries around the globe, Turkey in the “long sixties” experienced substantial social changes, mass mobilization, and multifaceted forms of popular protest. During this period the country faced serious crisis of legitimacy, representation and government in the realm of politics and economics. Rapid urbanization and the migration flow from rural areas to the industrial cities starting in the 1950s changed the structure of society seriously, and the political sphere, too. The state and its weak social welfare system were not able to cope with unemployment and widespread poverty; hardship was most blatant in the gecekondus, in the shanty towns of the urban areas put up by poor migrants from the villages. Governments in the 1960s and opposition parties like the CHP (Republican People Party) were apparently unable to respond to the growing discontent and deprivation among substantial parts of the population.
The cultural polarization between laicism (laiklik) and Islam inherited from the early Kemalist republican regime became even more evident in the 1960s. In addition, already existing or new conflict lines emerged along ideological (left vs. right), ethnical (Turkish vs. Kurdish), confessional (Sunni vs. Alevi), and economic (etatism vs. free market economy) lines. The lack of trust in democratic institutions made more and more people join the cadres of the militant extra-parliamentary opposition. Violent clashes between left-wing and right-wing militants and of both with the police increased. Students’ riots, strikes, boycotts and occupation of public institutions occurred in 1966 and 1967. From 1968 to 1971 the public protest as well as the violent clashes became bloodier, wider in scope, and more frequent. In particular the ideological and religious divisions of society helped to create groups placing themselves in an antagonistic relationship towards the state and each other. Ultimately, this chain of events turned out to be the decisive factor in the second breakdown of democratization in March 1971 when the military forces ousted the ruling party from office and proclaimed martial law to “restore law and order”. The 1961 Constitution which guaranteed political pluralism and freedom of opinion had been retracted after only ten years of implementation. The clampdown after the demi coup d’état in 1971 weakened decisively the development of the civil society. Instead, fanaticism, uniformity, and militarisation of social groups prevailed which reinforced the evolving culture of violence in Turkish society. The undeclared civil war in the 1970s took thousands of lives. The roots of these events can be traced back to the social and politico-economic upheavals in the 1960s. The conference will explore the relationship between fundamental processes of social change and political radicalization in the 1960s, a period of increasing violence and tensions in Turkish society which led to almost a civil war in the 1970s. Political analysts, both Turkish and others, have published an impressive body of literature on this central chapter of Turkish history in 20th century. Apart from some good exceptions, they mainly focussed on political formations, party politics, and the military interventions. In contrast, the social, societal and historical changes in Turkey during the 1960s have been less thoroughly investigated.
The conference ought to analyse conditions, causes and consequences of pluralisation of ideas and social movements during the period indicated. The results of these changes may be summarized as a cultural, political and ideological polarization and fragmentation of the Turkish society. The conference seeks to discuss and analyse these developments in Turkish society along ideological, ethnical, cultural, and religious divisions, which have effects on Turkish politics and society until today.
On the other hand, we want to bring together scholars of various disciplines with an interest in contemporary Turkish history and foster the international scholarly exchange among them, in particular since “Turkish contemporary history” as a discipline is at present far from common discourse about problems and methods.
The funding of the conference is provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). More information on venue & accommodation of the conference and a guideline for the presenters will give you soon by the organizers.
Inquiries should be addressed to:Berna.Pekesen@uni-hamburg.de