alice online: Can you please briefly introduce yourself?
Kaya: I am a scholar from Turkey, studying on modern Turkish history and urban sociology. When I was an assistant professor in Istanbul, I signed a peace petition named “We will not be a party to this crime,” which has been signed by 2212 scholars from 89 universities of Turkey who called themselves “Academics for Peace”. In this petition, we criticize the gross human rights violations of the Turkish security forces in the Kurdish regions of Turkey and demand an end to the military operations and return to the peace process.
However, the response of the Turkish government to the peace petition was to put a heavy political pressure on the “Academics for Peace” in different ways. More than 400 academics who signed the peace petition were dismissed from universities in the last year. I was one of them. I was also jailed for 40 days with three of my colleagues in March and April 2016. We were charged with making “terrorist propaganda” in our peace petition.
After being released from prison, I searched for a new job, but I couldn’t find any because I was on the “black list” like other signatory academics in Turkey. Thus, to continue my profession I had to go abroad. In October 2016, I came to Berlin and I am currently holding a position as visiting research fellow at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences. This is a post-doctoral position awarded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
“There is a strong need to establish effective solidarity links among the democratic forces of the world.”
alice online: How can we understand the recent developments in Turkey, especially in higher education?
Kaya: The political situation is highly complicated now. Erdoğan aims to establish a one-man dictatorship, unfortunately he has succeeded in gaining support of almost half of the Turkish society. I think in the Turkish context, we should describe the current developments as the rise of neo-fascism in 21. Century. There is also a strong democratic resistance in Turkey. Democratic forces of Europe should support anti-fascist resistance in Turkey, since it has also inevitable effects on European societies. I think these developments are not peculiar to Turkey. It is not hard to see the rise of neo-fascisms all over the world, including Europe. Hence, there is a strong need to establish effective solidarity links among the democratic forces in the world.
As for the higher education in Turkey, we should remember the Althusserian concept of the “ideological apparatus of the state”. Even though the democratic potential is inherint in them, universities are the ideological apparatus of the state “at the last instance”, so if your aim is to change the political regime of a country, you need to restructure the educational system first. What we are currently experiencing in Turkey is exactly that. Erdoğan aims to achieve a regime change in Turkey. Therefore, he is now restructuring the entire education system including universities according to the needs of new the regime which is in the making. And the main result of this restructuring is the liquidation of democratic and leftist scholars from Turkish universities.
alice online: Could you please tell us about your past research projects?
Kaya: I have researched and written extensively on satellite cities and urban outskirts, social movements and ethno-religious discontent in contemporary cities. I have an interdisciplinary training in sociology, history and political science. In my research I strive to contribute to comparative research on urban and social inequality, the right to the city and social justice.
alice online: What are you currently working on here in Germany?
Kaya: Currently, I am working on a project about community economies in Turkey with professor Esra Erdem at ASH Berlin. My focus is especially on non-capitalist, alternative economic organizations such as cooperatives. The theoretical framework of this project is based on J. K. Gibson-Graham’s concept of “diverse economies”. Our project analyzes how grassroots economic practices contribute to social equality and empowerment. In this respect the concept of “economy” will also be re-evaluated. The discussions and practices that emerged within the framework of the Kurdish movement in Turkey presents a particularly valuable case study to understand this concept of community economies. The political project of “democratic autonomy” offered by the Kurdish political movement in Turkey is based on the idea of non-commercialized, community-based economic fields as an alternative to market-based economic relations. By analyzing the Kurdish case, my project aims to shed light on the economic, socio-cultural and political conditions which make the emergence of such post-capitalist initiatives possible. Dealing with the alternative economy program of the Kurdish movement and its avantgarde experiments from this perspective appears as immensely instructive to understand the potentials and difficulties these alternative economic models present.