Turkey's Domestic and International Politics Over the Past Two Decades

Hosted by the Middle East Centre

Zoom (Online)


Evren Balta

Evren Balta

Özyeğin University

Lisel Hintz

Lisel Hintz

Johns Hopkins University


Spyros A. Sofos

Spyros A. Sofos

LSE Middle East Centre

 turkey flag 800x

Over the past two decades Turkey has been undergoing profound transformations. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), a newcomer in politics with roots in Islamist political traditions managed to make itself and its vision relevant to broader constituencies, challenge the dominance of the armed forces and the judiciary, dominate the political game, and eventually radically transform Turkey’s political system. To end a two-decade-long armed conflict, Ankara engaged in a peace process with the country’s Kurdish movement. Despite the abrupt end of the process, a strand of Kurdish activism embraced claims, grievances, and aspirations of other ethnic, religious and social movements under the umbrella of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and gained a voice in the National Assembly and national politics. A vibrant plebeian movement emerged out of the Gezi protests and challenged the governance style and vision of the AKP. Ankara’s aspiration to play a more significant regional and international role underwent significant transformations, from Ahmet Davutoğlu’s zero problems with neighbours principle to a more aggressive and militarized power projection and presence in Syria, Iraq, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

This panel attempts to explore the interconnectedness of Turkey’s domestic and foreign politics over the past two decades. How do geopolitical histories and imaginaries affect Turkey’s foreign policy? What are the links between everyday culture and Turkey’s foreign policy? To what extent have global and regional developments impacted on and informed domestic politics? In what ways has foreign policy been used as a technique of governance?

Evren Balta is Professor of International Relations and chair of the International Relations Department at Özyeğin University. Her articles have appeared in many different journals such as Party Politics, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology, Gender Place & Culture. She is the author of The American Passport in Turkey: National Citizenship in the Age of Transnationalism (with O Altan-Olcay, UPenn, 2020), Age of Uneasiness (İletisim, 2019) and Global Security Complex (İletisim, 2012). She is the editor of Neighbors with Suspicion: Dynamics of Turkish-Russian Relations (with G. Ozcan and B. Besgul, İletisim, 2017); Introduction to Global Politics (Iletisim, 2014) and Military, State and Politics in Turkey (with I. Akca, Bilgi University Press, 2010). Her research has been supported by the American Association for University Women, Mellon Foundation, Bella Zeller Scholarship Trust Fund, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, and the Fulbright Scholar Program. She served as a research fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences/Russia in Global Dialogue Program (Vienna, Austria 2017) and as a Fulbright visiting associate professor at New York University, Program in International Relations during the 2017-2018 academic year. In 2018, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Political Science Program at the CUNY-The Graduate Center. Balta is a senior scholar at Istanbul Policy Center, a member of the Global Relations Forum and co-editor of International Relations Journal. She was appointed as the academic coordinator of TÜSİAD Global Politics Forum in 2021.

Lisel Hintz is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and was visiting assistant professor at Barnard College, Columbia University. She studies the arenas in which struggles over various forms of identity – e.g., national, ethnic, religious, gender – take place. Her regional focus is on Turkey and its relations with the Middle East, Europe, and the US. Her 2018 book Identity Politics Inside Out: National Identity Contestation and Foreign Policy in Turkey (Oxford University Press) examines how Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) used foreign policy gambits to weaken its domestic obstacles and open up space for disseminating its own Ottoman Islamist understanding of Turkish national identity and, ultimately, the ways in which contestation over national identity spills over to shape and be shaped by foreign policy. Her current book project, under contract with Cambridge University Press, investigates Turkey’s state-society struggles over identity in the pop culture sphere. Her work also appears in journals such as Nationalities Papers, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, European Journal of International Relations, International Journal of Turkish Studies, and Survival. She also contributes to Foreign Policy, The Washington Post,  The Boston Globe, and BBC World Service, as well as to academic and policy discussions on Turkey’s increasing authoritarianism, opposition dynamics, foreign policy shifts, and identity-related topics including Kurdish, Alevi, and gender issues.

Spyros A. Sofos is a Researcher at the LSE Middle East Centre. He has previously worked as Lecturer and Researcher at Lund University, Kingston University and the University of Portsmouth, and held visiting positions at Siena, Tartu and Istanbul Bilgi Universities. Spyros has been a member of the Fragmentation of peacemaking and peacebuilding: Non-Western dynamics of peace and transition management project team, funded by the FCDO and the PeaceRep Consortium. His research explores the intersection of societal insecurity, identity, and collective action and, to date, it has focused on Turkish politics and society, nationalism, populism and Islamism in Europe and the Middle East, urban citizenship, and European Muslim identities and politics. His latest book Turkish Politics and ‘The People’: Mass Mobilisation and Populism (Edinburgh University Press) – explores the emergence of populism in Turkey and its genealogy as a tradition of action and discourse. His other publications include Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe (Routledge), Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey (Oxford University Press), Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks (Palgrave). Spyros initiated and is lead editor of openDemocracy’s #rethinkingpopulism.

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Image: ©Spyros A. Sofos

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