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Temporality and social movements: a political ethnography of activism in contemporary Turkey (2016-2018)

Gokmenoglu, Birgan (2019) Temporality and social movements: a political ethnography of activism in contemporary Turkey (2016-2018). PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

While social movement studies have developed extensive frameworks for studying the emergence, maintenance, and decline of social movements, temporal orientations and futurity have not been systematically mobilized as necessary explanatory dimensions of activism. This dissertation argues that activists' temporal orientations and future imaginings are crucial to understanding action, including organizational form, movement trajectories, and long-term projects. Futurity is particularly relevant and amenable to theorization in uncertain, politically volatile, and urgent times, when activist debates revolve around predictions, expectations, possibilities, and scenarios. I take grassroots activism in Istanbul, Turkey between 2016 and 2018 as a case in point to examine the changing dynamics of activism during regime change. Based on participant-observation at a local assembly that was established to campaign for the “no” vote in the constitutional referendum of 2017 supported by semi-structured, in-depth interviews with activists, this study follows the changes in activists' temporal orientations and their relationship to different aspects of activism. The dissertation begins with an examination of the organizational structure of the local “no” assembly as a product of activists' critical engagement with the past and the future, by looking at their re-reading of the Gezi protests of 2013. The analysis then moves on to the period around the 2017 referendum, when future imaginings, in the form of anticipatory scenarios about the near future, played a constitutive role in the decision-making processes of the assembly, and contending futures resulted in its disintegration. Lastly, as the referendum was left behind and as activists were faced with defeat at the 2018 presidential and general elections, their engagement with the distant future came to the fore, in the form of hope, which enabled and was enabled by a future-oriented narrative of historical embeddedness. To conclude, I argue that scholars of social movements should pay more attention to the role of possibilities and future imaginings in political action, as well as the open-endedness inherent in activism, especially at times marked by uncertainty and urgency.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Birgan Gokmenoglu
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Archer, Robin
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/4054

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