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Accepted Paper:

Engaged anthropologists as active participants of counter-publics in Turkey  


Erkan Saka (Istanbul Bilgi University)
Suncem Kocer (Kadir Has University)

Paper short abstract:

Engaged anthropologists in Turkey are by default active participants of counter-publics. The political context harnesses digital/alternative media as venues of public scholarship. Anthropological work may reach to broader public spheres to perform multiple voices from social science to activism.

Paper long abstract:

In the context of rising authoritarianism and polarization, engaged anthropologists in Turkey are, by default, active participants of counter-publics. The political context harnesses digital and alternative media as venues of public scholarship where anthropological media work potentially reaches beyond the scholarly communities to broader public spheres, rendering a possibility of anthropology to bear the means of performing multiple voices from social science to activism for social and political ends. Our media work from nationwide news channel, to a local TV sports channel and our involvement in the emergence of several citizen media platforms, carried anthropological values of empowerment, collaboration, and dialogue into the domains of activism around social justice including the issues of health, education, environmental protection, gender parity, and political inclusion. As engaged anthropologists, we have continuously switched positions and performed multiple roles as academics, media producers, and activists. While, in traditional settings, we acted as guides with relatively didactic voices strategically performing a hierarchical standing, in citizen media contexts we built upon the intellectual capital we accumulated to collaborate with media activists. Thus we became active participants in public debates around media freedom, digital equality, and citizen rights. However, playing an active role in media activism means that engaged anthropologists can quickly become targets of authorities or can be trapped in sectarian struggles in a particular community. This presentation will highlight the opportunities and constraints of engaged media anthropology in affecting a social and political change in an increasingly authoritarian and polarized setting as in Turkey.

Panel P015
Engaged media anthropology in the digital age [Media Anthropology Network]