The Transformative Impact of the Gezi Protests on New Social Movements in Turkey

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Baran Alp UNCU, Marmara University, Turkey
During the 15 days of the Gezi protest encampment in Turkey, a multiplicity of actors with diverging identities and claims experienced a process of mutual recognition, solidarity and trust building, networking, and experimenting with alternative forms of democracy and social life within the free space of affections, cognition, and relations. My study analyzes the prolonged impacts of the Gezi protests as an eventful protest on the formation and strengthening of inclusive new social movement networks. To this end, I study the impacts of the Gezi encampment on transformations at the cognitive, emotional, and organizational levels in the subsequent phases of the protests, namely social forum gatherings at the public parks in Istanbul and formation of issue-specific movement networks. Based on 35 in-depth interviews and 18 months of participant observation, I argue that processes of collective identity construction and solidarity building that have been initiated at the Gezi protests are carried over to the succeeding stages. Yet, this process remained incomplete during the park forums stage due to salient organizational identities, concerns, and priorities –especially of the ‘old’ left groups/organizations- as well as robust social and political cleavages. However, relations of solidarity are sustained in the issue-specific movement networks with a clear focus that either have spun off the Gezi protests or are strengthened with the impact of the protests. Yet, resting on the relations established at the Gezi protest camp, these issue specific movement groups including feminists, LGBTQs, animal rights activists, urban movement activists, anti-capitalist Muslims, and ecologists do not confine themselves within the limits of their specific issues, but rather they bridge their frames and collaborate as a flexible and decentralized network under a broad master fame of “right to life”. Moreover, they transcend the dichotomy between “old” and “new” issues by mobilizing for labor rights.