Academic activism and its impact on individual-level mobilization, sources of learning, and the future of academia in Turkey

Yasemin Gülsüm Acar, Canan Coşkan

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Abstract

In January 2016, academics in Turkey distributed a peace petition calling for an end to hostilities and to restart negotiations with the Kurdish movement. The Turkish government responded by opening legal cases, jailing academics, and dismissing them from universities. In the state of emergency following the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the government's extended powers allowed them to fire thousands of civil servants from every branch of government, including thousands of academics. This increased the number of academics who organized to form and teach in academic collectives. The current study evaluates how politicization occurs in scholars removed from the university environment. Traditional approaches to collective action and politicization suggest that empowerment is an important catalyst in politicization and continuation of collective political engagement. With the social and political restrictions that decree law dismissals place on scholars, what is it that motivates them to politicize? The current study was conducted through semistructured interviews with nine academics who work in these collectives. Participants described their politicization in terms of previous practice, reaction to injustice, and ideals of academia and academic freedom. They further evaluated current and prospective functions and possible barriers to academic collectives. Finally, although somewhat ambivalent, participants discussed feelings of efficacy, psychosocial support, and senses of solidarity and liberation in terms of being empowered. Their perspectives provide an opportunity to understand how and where academics engage in scholar activism for an independent and free academia in the context of consolidated political oppression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-404
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Volume30
Issue number4
Early online date16 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • collective action
  • empowerment
  • mobilization
  • scholar activism
  • Turkey

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