Academic freedom and the banality of evil: The experience of contemporary Turkey


Antonis Hadjikyriacou




This short commentary examines the question of academic freedom in the context of the repressive, authoritarian, economically neoliberal and politically neoconservative regime of present-day Turkey. By using examples of state intervention in the academic community, it discusses the emerging personal and collective political dilemmas with reference to academic freedom, and the ways in which the latter is employed or is put on hold in extreme conditions like the ones Turkey is experiencing. Central to the problematique of this intervention is the position that despite obvious differences in the functioning of the rule of law between Turkey and the West, differences are quantitative and not qualitative. Thus, no matter how foreign conditions in Turkey appear to western eyes, being part of a broader process of a global populist neoliberal conservative project (e.g. Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Orban), these conditions are closer to home than we are ready or willing to admit – without implying that these conditions are identical. For this reason, rethinking about the political content of the use of academic freedom remains a desideratum.


Antonis Hadjikyriacou is a historian of the Ottoman world. He has worked and taught at Stanford University, Princeton University, Boğaziçi University, the Universities of Crete and Cyprus, and the Institute for Mediterranean Studies. He is currently teaching Ottoman and Turkish history at Panteion University, Athens, and his research employs Geographic Information Systems to enquire into the spatial dimensions of economic, social and cultural processes in the early modern Mediterranean.