How are academic institutions under threat in today’s Turkey?


– To critically… OK, gone. – Start over whenever you need to. – You can go if you have more meaningful things to say about this. Because I might not. Academic freedoms in Turkey
have been under threat mostly but not confined to in the
aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016. There has
been an unprecedented purge: around 3000 schools,
universities, and dormitories have been shut down; 6000
academics have been fired, either by government decries,
under the state of emergency or by other means, and the
academics that have been dismissed from public service and also fired from their universities,
include a wide range of academics, it includes for instance the very well known case
of signatories in Europe who signed the peace petition in 2016, but it also includes other academics, some of whom are in exile in Europe, most of which are in Germany. What has been happening
the last two to three years since July 2016 had more
to do with what happens after the coup and the
ruling elite’s aspirations to radically redesign
society, society and politics. On the one hand they have
been purging academics that are deemed as a
threat to national unity and the perseverance of the state, whereby on the other hand,
the ruling AKP have also been opening a lot of
universities all around that are dedicated to producing
a certain form of knowledge. So, the picture is more complicated than academic freedoms are under threat and academics are purged:
yes and no – some are purged, some are actually reemployed
in AKP-related universities. – We see populism only in the form of a justification in some cases in purging certain
academics out of their jobs or criticizing their
work if they are critical of the AKP’s and President
Erdogan’s political agenda. And along the way, when
they criticize, they declare academicians and scholars
as enemies of the people. That is where we see populism,
again populist rhetoric, in function as if all these academicians by producing a critical account of the political life in Turkey and of the political regime currently in government in Turkey, as if they are doing something against the will of the people and hence deserve to be purged or even sentenced to prison time. That’s why we can see, here, populism is not the main reason why they are purged but it can function as a justification discourse for these attacks. University is generally
known as the source of critical thinking and
has political resistance with their youth, with
their scholarly work, and populists – they
don’t like this potential at universities, as well. – And just building up on that last point, probably we should also pay attention to factors that are beyond populism, that kind of challenge
the critical thinking capacity of the university. And by that I mean mainly
the changing structure of universities, in
terms of, for instance, the decreasing number of permanent jobs, increasing number of adjunct
positions, temporary positions, the constant pressure to publish and also the push towards more
managerial way of thinking of the university leaves scholars weak or vulnerable if you will to resist the anti-intellectual moment. So that’s also one thing to keep in mind. So it’s not only populism but other things that also come together with populism in this current moment. It is important because academic freedom is the guarantee of any citizen’s – including students and
scholars and other citizens – right to knowledge. We can only have that right if you have spaces of critical thinking and critical knowledge production, without that, we basically lose that right or we are deprived of that right.

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