The Culture of Surveillance in Turkey

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:45
Oral Presentation
Ozgun TOPAK, York University, Canada
Surveillance in Turkey has in recent years moved from being authoritarian to totalitarian: rather than targeting selected dissident groups, it now aims at mass disciplining and pre-emption of dissident behavior. This paper aims to analyze the causes of this shift in surveillance, paying particular attention to the role of culture. While the current surveillance regime represents a new stage in the curtailment of rights and freedoms, cultures of surveillance are not created overnight. Erdogan’s AKP inherited the culture of authoritarian state surveillance in Turkey and brought it to new levels. The establishment of totalitarian surveillance should not be understood from a negative teleological perspective either, as the unfolding of an inevitable totalitarian tendency found in the Turkish “culture”. In order to understand the current culture of surveillance in Turkey, we need to take into account the national, regional and global conjunctural events, the complex interactions among multiple internal and external actors, as well as Erdogan’s strategic maneuvers to protect and expand his sphere of influence. In Electronic Eye (1994: 11-12), David Lyon notes that the increasing surveillance capacities of states does not necessarily mean sliding into totalitarianism, even though there is always a risk. The case of Turkey demonstrates that the actualization of such risk could be located in the articulation of a “culture of surveillance” within a complex conjuncture.