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From the Regions

Public Sociology at Ankara University

Workers huddle in the city of tents created in protest against TEKEL Corporation’s labor policy.

July 31, 2013

by Günnur Ertong and Zuhal Yonca Odabaş, Ankara University, Turkey We are a group of sociologists working with Professor Aytül Kasapoğlu in the Department of Sociology of Ankara University. Our group includes graduate students, young postgraduates and fully-fledged academicians.

Our group is a dynamic one; people join us to study, they contribute to our publications and continue their academic lives with these experiences. They are mainly students who are writing their doctoral or master theses under the direction of Professor Kasapoğlu. We are connected through our research network even when we move away from the department to take up different jobs. In what follows, I briefly introduce the books we have published as a part of our research, the seminar courses of Professor Kasapoğlu where we develop our field research, and a journal where we frequently report our research findings.

The books we have published concentrate on the contents of the courses taught by Aytül Kasapoğlu. They build upon the works of students and academicians, integrating theory and practice. The first of these books, Character in a Changing Social Structure, is about character erosion due to the exigencies of social structure. The second, New Social Traumas, examines narratives of social trauma. The third, Social Life and Conflict: Different Panoramas, deals with social life and conflict, while the latest, Two Sides of the Coin: Health and Illness, focuses on the area of sociology of health and illness. The seminar series, organized by Professor Kasapoğlu, direct students to the relevant literature and generate new ideas that are then discussed with colleagues. Even after they have graduated, former students continue to participate in the courses, inspiring the new recruits.

One field research project we completed very recently focused on the TEKEL strike of December 2009. TEKEL is a large former state enterprise in the tobacco and alcoholic drinks sector. The strike lasted for 78 days at Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. The cause of the strike was the change in TEKEL workers’ status. The rise of privatization in the 1990s and increasing labor costs in the public sector resulted in the widespread use of contract workers employed by subsidiary firms with the result that the percentage of workers with security of employment took a dive.

Worker resistance to such “flexibilization” strategies started in Ankara on December 14, 2009, sparked by oppressive tactics of the security forces. Because of the cold weather and the prolonged wait for the government to respond, TEKEL workers built a city of tents in the streets where they were protesting. These tents became a focus of public attention. Despite the hegemony of the government, TEKEL’s tented workers received much local support from scientists, artists and students. Our group was present, supporting the workers, with field research that applied Herbert Blumer’s crowd-mobilization model to the TEKEL strike. The results of this work became a paper that was presented at the meeting of the European Sociological Association (ESA) in Geneva in September, 2011.

Yurt ve Dünya – Homeland and the World – is an online journal which has been published since 2010 at http://www.yurtvedunya.net/. However, it has a much longer history. Yurt ve Dünya was first published in 1941 under the leadership of Behice Boran, a public sociologist working at the Faculty of Humanities. We have been inspired by Michael Burawoy’s public sociology movement and decided to revive Yurt ve Dünya in 2010 drawing on the energy of some graduate students and professors at the Department of Sociology. The aim of the journal is to share the research conducted in the academy with different publics outside the academy. The first target public of the journal are the students of different sociology departments in Turkey.

We are planning to extend our efforts on public sociology to the international area. We are all members of ISA and ESA. Since we strongly believe in the importance of collaboration among sociologists at the national as well as regional and international levels, we are also active in our national association.

We are excited to be developing a collaborative research culture and producing public sociology. If you are interested in our works or communicating with our group, you can contact us at: Aytül Kasapoğlu: kasap@humanity.ankara.edu.trZuhal Yonca Odabaş yoncaodabas@yahoo.com, Günnur Ertong gertong07@gmail.com

Günnur Ertong and Zuhal Yonca Odabaş, Ankara University, Turkey

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