Panel 3d ‘Neo-Ottomanism’?: National and International Dimensions of Shifts in Turkish Foreign Policy

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Chair: Dr Sedef Arat-Koç, Ryerson University

Paper 1: Neo-Empire, Middle Power or Subcontractor for Imperialism? ‘Neo-Ottomanism’, Shifts in Geopolitics and Turkey’s Foreign Policy
Dr Sedef Arat-Koç, Ryerson University

In the post-Cold War period, Turkey’s foreign policy has changed from one that was seen to be largely indifferent to the Middle East to one that involves an active engagement with MENA countries. What has been described by some as “neo-Ottomanism” involves an even more pronounced and ambitious shift in Turkish foreign policy that expresses aspirations to political leadership and economic expansion in countries and regions formerly part of the Ottoman Empire. In 2011 however there has been what appears like an increased realignment of Turkish foreign policy with that of the U.S. and E.U. So far, “neo-Ottomanism” involves moves that seem to appease parts of a conservative national constituency in Turkey and/or appeal to Western foreign policy. This paper investigates the nature, contradictions and limits of imperial aspirations current “neo-Ottomanism” represents. The paper interrogates whether Turkey’s new involvement in the Middle East represents the rise of an independent regional power or rather an extension of western foreign policy in the region.

Paper 2: Neo-Ottomanism as an Aspect of the ‘Regression of Democratic Politics’
Dr Nuray Mert, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Istanbul University

‘Neo-Ottomanism’ needs to be discussed not only as a matter of foreign policy but also as a matter of domestic politics. References to the Ottoman past have played a part in contexts such as the manipulation of Anti-Russian feelings as the basis of anti-Communism during the Cold War; ‘Turkish irredentism’ in Cyprus; and the ongoing relations with the Balkans.  In addition, Turkish Islamism has always been peculiarly ‘nationalistic’ in the sense of being ‘imperial’. In some respects, AKP governments’ recent policies reflect this aspect of a right wing political tradition in Turkey. After 9/11 and after the Iraq invasion, Turkey found itself in fertile ground to revive its imperial imagination. Recently AKP has started to manipulate its important geopolitical role to recall imperial strength not only in the regional or international field but also in domestic politics. The classical excuses to ‘preserve national strength and harmony’ are increasingly used to limit political freedoms and to crush Kurdish opposition. This paper will discuss “neo-Ottomanism” in relation with its implications on current domestic politics in Turkey.

Paper 3A Pax Turca in the Middle East? Turkey’s Entry into 21st Century Geopolitics
Dr Clemens Hoffmann, Department of International Relations, University of Sussex (co-authored with Can Cemgil)

Turkey’s recent foreign policy initiatives within the former Ottoman lands, aiming at the creation of a zone of peace and stability with ‘zero problems,’ have received mixed reviews in the West. Some feel threatened by the alleged increasing Islamization of the country’s (geo)politics. Sceptical voices claim that the so-called ‘Neo-Ottomanist’ turn gradually corrupts Turkey’s traditional transatlanticism in favour of Iran and Palestine amounting to an ‘axis shift’ away from the West towards a pan-Islamic neo-Caliphate. Others see Turkey, governed by pro-market conservative Islamists, as a positive democratic role model in the troubled region. By historicizing the dialectical evolution of competing strategies of reproduction, this paper investigates the nature of the current conjunctural response of the Turkish state to its existing conditions of reproduction shaped by a wider set of internal and external determinants.

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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