Notions of ‘the public sphere’ in Turkey – Københavns Universitet

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Notions of ‘the public sphere’ in Turkey

In the past decades Turkey has witnessed a quantitative and qualitative transformation of media. Not least the liberalization of the media from the early 1990ies onwords and the subsequent emergence of innumerous so-called new media, such as satellite TV channels, have profoundly changed Turkish media. Many have pointed out how Tukish media have increasingly become entertainment focused. Indeed, the new channels are filled with game shows, celebrity programmes, talk shows, reality shows, and endless TV series. Even TV news has been heavily influenced by these changes in mode of presentation as well as content. Equally many, though, have also pointed out how the liberalization of media, despite difficulties relating to ownership structure, media access and continued state regulation of broadcasting has sustained the simultaneous political liberalization in Turkey. More voices and opinions - be they pro-islamic, Kurdish or other - have been able to address various audiences and the number and kinds of issues which can be debated in public have increased dramatically.

As more and more variously positioned political-ideological actors have been able to address particular publics, it has however simultaneosly become clear that these actors hold various opinions as to just what 'the public sphere' is. Where some see it as a space, where opinions long suppressed by the Turkish state can finally be articulated and circulated, others hold that 'the public sphere' should be a place for educating and informing the Turkish public. These varying opinions of just what 'the public sphere' is reflect some of the major ideological cleavages and political faultlines in Turkey today, not least between the statist elite and various socio-political forces such as those who argue in favor of room for more multiculturalism and multireligiousness in Turkey, but also between the large media owners and those who see themselves as fighting against the ownership structures and commercialization of Turkish media.

The project investigates the various ways of defining 'the public sphere' and how these notions are shaped. The project is part of a larger on-going research interest with political culture in Turkey, and can be seen as an extension of a completed PhD project that dealt with notions of 'civil society' in Turkey and how these are produced.

Dr. Daniella Kuzmanovic has a PhD and MA in social anthropology. Her research activities have all been concerned with Turkey. Her current research interest is political culture. Her PhD deals with perceptions of civil society in Turkey and how these are produced.