Exile and Plurality in Neoliberal Times: Turkey’s Academics for Peace


Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir, Nil Mutluer & Esra Özyürek
Translated in Greek by Vangelis Poulios




Today thousands of academics from Turkey, along with others from Syria, Iran, and Egypt are deserting their homeland in search of intellectual refuge in Western countries. These exiled academics have been attempting to practice diverse forms of teaching and researching, both in Turkey and in exile. We argue that the struggles of oppositional academics inside and outside Turkey today offer insight into the nature of the global crisis in neoliberal academia based on precarious working conditions of knowledge producers and commodification of education. Some of the answers to this crisis may lie, as they did in the 1930s and 1940s, in the hands of those same persecuted scholars who bring with them academic perspectives forged in oppressive regimes. In a short period of time Academics for Peace accomplished two goals. They have resisted through peaceful, anti-violent civil disobedience the political pressure brought to bear upon them by the increasingly authoritarian Turkish government, daring to demand and then create a new, more plural public Turkish space. Second, they have dared, even in the face of academic and civic precariousness, to take a critical stance toward the marketization and hierarchization of Turkish and European universities and in response to forge new autonomous ways of teaching and researching in their home and host countries. An approach that goes beyond humanitarianizing the support given to dissident academics has the potential to pluralize academy.


Dr. Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir, (PhD, Paris VII-Denis Diderot University and Galatasaray University, Paris-Istanbul) is Visiting Fellow at European Institute, London School of Economics where she is leading an interdisciplinary research project “Academia in Exile: The Turkish Case” in collaboration with Dr Esra Özyürek. She focuses on the intersections between contemporary and modern politics, philosophy, and ethics, in particular as they relate to human rights, democracy, politics of inclusion-exclusion and rising authoritarianism. Her recent publication includes “Pity the Exiled: Turkish Academics in Exile, the Problem of Compassion in Politics, and the Promise of Dis-exile” in Journal of Refugee Studies (2019).

Dr. Nil Mutluer, (PhD, Gender Studies, Central European University, Budapest) is the Einstein Senior Scholar in the Diversity and Social Conflict Department at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, Germany, where she was an Interim Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies Department in 2018. She was awarded the Philipp Schwartz Research Fellowship of Humboldt Foundation (2016-2018). She is the editor of the books States of Gender: The Intersectional Borders of Gender in Turkey (2008) and States of National: Citizenship and Nationalism, Are We Aware? (2008). Her recent publications include “The Intersectionality of Gender, Sexuality, and Religion: Novelties and Continuities in Turkey during the AKP Era” in Southeast European and Black Sea Studies (2019) and “Diyanet’s Role in Building the ‘Yeni (New) Milli‘ in the AKP Era” in European Journal of Turkish Studies (2019).

Dr. Esra Özyürek (PhD, Anthropology, University of Michigan) is an Associate Professor and Chair for Contemporary Turkish Studies at the European Institute, London School of Economics. She is the author of Being German, Becoming Muslim (2014) and Nostalgia for the Modern (2007). She also is the editor of Authoritarianism and Resistance in Turkey (with Gaye Özpınar and EmrahAltındiş) (2018) and Politics of Public Memory in Turkey (2007).

Vangelis Poulios is a Political Science and History graduate. He resides in Athens and works as a translator. Occasionally, he contributes articles for the local music press.