Monday, December 28, 2009

Changing Views on Self-Determination

7 January 2010 edit to this post:

Read Eric Hobsbawm's Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, specifically chapter 5: "The Apogee of Nationalism," for a killer modernist perspective on the transformation and use of the self-determination principle in the post WWI period. an excerpt below:

"Given the official commitment of the victorious powers to Wilsonian nationalism, it was natural that anyone claiming to speak in the name of some oppressed or unrecognized people -- should do so in terms of the national principle, and especially of the right to self-determination...It was anti-imperial. Insofar as there were proto-national identifications, ethnic, religious, or otherwise, among the comon people, they were, as yet, obstacles rather than contributions to the national consciousness, and readily mobilized against nationalists by imperial masters...." (137).

I'm writing a final essay for my good ol' Theories and Case Studies in the Theory of Nationalism class in Turkey, and so I'm back in this whole nationalism thing. Specifically I'm looking at how modernists address something I judge to be the "contemporary reality" of "ethnonationalism." So far what I'm looking at is that modernists have focused their efforts on proving the emptiness of the "antiquity of nations" - ethnic nations, linguistic nations, and very importantly proving the recent invention of connecting the presence of a nation with the demand for a nation-state. However, when we look at contemporary separatist nationalist movements, many, arguably most of them are ethnic nationalist movements. I ask, so now what, modernists? Is it 'enough' for the school to write it off as an "imagined community," or part of the "inventing of tradition?" Essentially my first reaction is no. I think as theoreticians of nations, they have to address something that, while perhaps invented, is now "a reality."

Yeap, we'll see how this essay goes. Probably end up shoddy because I less than 24 hours to complete it...


In my last spring quarter at UCSD, I began a research project on the King-Crane Commission (a.k.a the American Section of the Inter-Allied Commission on Syria) - an arm of Wilson's self-determination philosophy, born in the Council of Four meetings at the Post WWI Paris Peace Conference. A short history of the Commission: Wilson goes to Paris, finds out about all the Allied Powers' secret treaties and divvying up of the old Ottoman territories, gets disgusted and demands that they send in a "fact-finding" commission into the region and figure out what the people there want. The French and the British reluctantly agree, but never actually send anyone. So what's left of the "Inter-Allied Commission" is the American Section, headed but Charles Crane and Henry King...HENCE the King-Crane Commission.

I was infatuated with this commission because IF it and its report had been a bigger deal at the Paris Peace Conference, the state order in the Middle East, the construction of the mandates, of Israel, the partitioning of Syria -- all of it would have been different...but after a long time of not touching my research and just thinking about it, it's time to get real and admit that probably the reason I was so interested in this commission was because I believed so fiercely in self-determination. This became so clear every time I began to describe my research to my professors, family, friends, fellow students, etc., and I described this commission and its report as a failed opportunity for the United States. (I realize this is a little difficult to follow without knowing what happened, so another brief history lesson: The Commission was dispatched to Syria, conducted extensive interviews and research in the region and then produced a report and recommendations, all of which were later completely ignored. The consequences of this negligence were almost perfectly predicted in the Commission report, and well, "the rest is history."

Anyways let me get to the point of this post, which is that I've stopped thinking so highly of self-determination. It has ceased to be an uplifting idea, associated with freedom/independence. In the past semester, inundated with the study of nationalism and seeing the effects of a world order based off of nation-states, national self-determination, nationalistic factions, interests, obsessions...well, it's possible that nation-states were a mistake. nationalistic-ness...mistakes mistakes mistakes that possibly catapulted us into this century of "small scale endemic warfare" (see Joseph Jaffe's most recent article in Foreign Affairs).

Do I have an alternative world order? Meh, not really. I'm just doubting the viability of the one we've got now.

At Home, Sort of.

Hi All!

I write to you from Cupertino, California, i.e. HOME! I arrived a few days ago, a few days that have just been a blur of family, Christmas spirit, Filipino parties, lots of food, and madddddd culture shock.

I'll quickly get the point of this blogpost, which is that I feel only partially present here at home. I described it yesterday like I was going through the motions of American/Californian life. All the comforts of home are wonderful, but not normal anymore. Obviously, in some time, life here, habits here, daily things here will again become my own. But my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of Turkey - and this perhaps will persist for much longer.

Today, my brain was occupied with the research paper I'm writing for my Foreign Policy of the Turkish Republic class, which is basically about the relationship between the United States and Turkey in regards to Northern Iraq-Kurdistan. I'm feeling exhausted after a day of reading about the violent history of the region and power-play politics.

Also, all day I was yearning to have someone to chat with about all this, which brings me to one of the key things I miss a lot about Turkey - people who are interested in Turkey! It's somewhat of a rarity here in my tech-obsessed Silicon Valley, and also at UC San Diego. I'm missing my friends/future colleagues in Istanbul with whom I can chat without end about any of these issues.

Anyways enough of that. Next post, I think, shall be about the history of Iraqi-US relations.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

DTP, Kirkuk

President of the DTP Ahmet Turk. photo from Hurriyet Daily News.

1. Closure of DTP
Last Friday night, when Tyler, Ruth and I were gossiping over dinner at Urfam Lokantasi (just a local restaurant), the news came on and it was big...the DTP had just been closed by the Turkish high judiciary. Everyone had stopped eating to watch it as it all unfolded - scenes from the court, scenes of crowds at local DTP offices across Istanbul, the DTP leader Ahmet Turk making first thought was along the lines of "holy crap." My second was, "at some point in the future, I'm going to be sitting in class and the closure of the DTP is going to come up as some kind of political watershed in the "Kurdish question" and I'm going to think back to this moment when I found out..." It was a long thought. But the kind of thought that one has in these kinds of times.

Anyways I want to write a bit about why the DTP is important, and a couple of things I think might happen, a couple of things I think that possibly should be considered. Many of these are recycled thoughts from friends, since I'm far from the expert on Turkish politics and I'm much happier to pass along more qualified thoughts from those who are...

Basics on the DTP: It stands for "Demokratik Toplum Partisi," or Democratic Society Party; and in a slightly oversimplified explanation, it is (well, it WAS) the pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey. It was shut down, and many of its top officials banned from participation in the Grand National Assembly after over a year of debate in the Turkish Constitutional Court over 11 accusations of the DTP's links with the terrorist organization the PKK, DTP sponsoring violence and separatism in Turkey, etc.

I think there are 2 basic things most people I've talked to agree on. 1) The ruling is constitutional. The DTP was guilty of these accusations, its links to the PKK would inevitably implicate it this way. 2) Result of DTP closure = political chaos, violence, instability. Already we're seeing the political fallout DTP leaders scramble to decide how to proceed...protests in Istanbul (right next to my house), in the Southeast, the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) in Northern Iraq, and more.

Finally, I want to raise a few points. Perhaps you folks in the west have gotten wind about the DTP (one or two articles in the NYT I think). Thinking back to the way that I would have thought about this 6 months ago, my guess is that the west is easily interpreting the closure of the DTP as a problem of political freedom, evidence against the Turkish "democratic" process, an oppression of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Actually none of these things are outrageously far from the truth...but just a thought: the PKK is officially designated by the Turkish government as a terrorist organization. Over the past 20 years, conflicts have led to over 30,000 deaths. Could you picture if a major American political party, or even a single politician, were somehow tied to having relations with al-Qaeda? I fully, completely, totally and wholly want to say this is an extremely problematic kind of hypothetical question. But I just want to caution against a quick write-off of this as a problem with democratic freedoms in Turkey.

That being said, there is a huge problem with democratic freedoms in Turkey. Perhaps another time, another blogpost...

2. Northern Iraq and the Brewing Battle over Kirkuk

The coming increased violence in Southeast Turkey (an inevitable consequence, I think, of DTP closure), will lead to tensions between Northern Iraq and Turkey. Turkey will turn the pressure on Barzani and his Kurdistan Regional Government, a defacto independent "state" composing the three N Iraqi provinces of Erbil, Sulemaniya and Dahut. Possibly, cross-border raids into N Iraq will increase in frequency and/or intensity, depending on what kind of attitude the KRG takes to this coming violence. Already, however, Barzani has come out strong against the Turkish Constitutional Court Decision (could he have done otherwise...?!).

The "fragile peace" that the US hopes to maintain in Northern Iraq is also dependent on finding a viable political and economic solution for Kirkuk: ravaged by Saddam, ethnically diverse, increasingly violent, and oil-rich rich rich rich (did I mention it has a lot of oil?). While the KRG has already declared Kirkuk its capital, this doesn't sit well alongside simultaneous Turkmen/Arab claims to this oil rich rich rich province.

Turkey stand absolutely opposed to the KRG claim on Kirkuk, which would give it the financial independence to actually break away from Iraq (though who knows if that would actually happen).

I think I'm a fan of the KRG political control of Kirkuk, but ONLY if some kind of oil profit-sharing economic inter-regional sort of agreement, can be reached. But we'll I learn more I'll keep you posted.

Well, that's it for now. I'm leaving Turkey on Monday night and am about to begin my goodbye weekend...saying goodbye (at least for now) to Istanbul, to my unbelievable friends, favorite places, favorite smells, foods, sights. Today by chance, iPod shuffle gave me Rachel Yamagata's "I"ll find a way... to see you again." I thought it was appropriate :).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm leaving soon...

...and thus I'm thinking about how I'm going to miss Istanbul. Yes, of COURSE I'm going to miss this unique and beautiful city - miss my great friends here and all the places we go, things we do, all the great food and sounds and sights. But I've also missed home the whole time I've been here, and moving back a isn't such a terrible thing.

The thing is, I'm lucky enough to live in California: land of sun and sand and where my best friends are. And as a friend once put it, it's like going on vacation but actually living life. I live 5 minutes from the beach when I'm at school, I have almost perfect weather like, 360 days of the year. I have amazing sunsets and sunrises and awesome adventures awaiting me back home, and yeah, tabii, of course I'm going to miss Turkey. But Home, I'm looking forward to you, too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some things I really like about my life in Turkey

Just as the title reads. Hope you enjoy!

Below ıs a pıcture of melissa, burcu, kazım, daetan and pınar enjoyıng dınner at my apartment. these dınner partıes (weekly-ısh) are one of my favorıte thıngs about the socıal lıfe ın ıstanbul...we cook together, enjoy each others company, have excellent dıscussıons about a wıde varıety of topıcs (the ıraq war, languages, cultural dıfferences, femınısm, and daetan and kazım never get together wıthout chattıng about dungeons and dragons haha), share music and general merrıment. İts not about getting drunk, not about anythıng really except sharing each others wonderful company and thoughts, recıpes and new frıends.

Below ıs a cafe ın Cihangir called Kahve 6. Ive lived in Istanbul for 5 months now and never even knew thıs thıng exısted...nor the park below. Yet another thıng I love about adventures ın the city...everyday you can turn a corner and fınd a new amazing vıew of the Boğaz, the palaces, the people.

Volkan at Kabataş. An amazing friend, guide, ağabey..i would certainly be at a loss wıthout hıs companıonshıp and advıce - always pushıng me to make the most of my experıence ın Turkey, remdindıng me of the bıgger pıcture and showıng me awesome places that Id just never fınd on my own. This picture was taken over one of our breakfast reunions - the usual simit and çay.

Cats at Boğaziçi. Fearless, persistent, cute.

Colors of Fall. The backside of Anderson Hall, where I spent my Mondays and Thursdays learning about nationalism or Byzantine art and architecture.

More of the view as I walk down the hill to school every day. Never gonna get over thıs.

Yenikapı, where Kaan and I began our adventure to Assos. Look at that view...

Yeşilyürt Köyü. A beautiful village up in the mountains above Edremit..famous for their olive trees and all the products assocıated with olive trees :).

Above: ruins of the Temple of Athena at Assos, in TURKEY. Lots of people dont know this, but there are tons tons tons of ancient Greek ruins (and Seljuk, and Byzantine, and Hittite, and every early civilızation ever) in Turkey...just waiting for you to come see them. There were approximately 4 people on top of this acropolis, and although I must admit that its the end of tourist season...seriously its just awesome to have these kinds of places "to yourself."

Below: One of the most amazing sunsets Ive ever experienced...overlooking Assos. I really cant even explain this. It was just too good...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cumhurriyet Bayramı

Since I found out a few weeks ago that my blog was picked up by Globalpost, an international news blog, I've felt the need to produce something, well..."globalpost-worthy." I started framing all my experiences within the question: "Is this blog-able?" It's been a failure. Blogging has never been much more than a stream of consciousness for me, and I think I've just about given up efforts to make it more than that.

So despite the past couple of weeks trying to compose some sort of coherent thought about Nationalism, the topic of today's post, I'm going to just go for it: list some observations, questions, thoughts, reactions...and hopefully that will suffice for my new readership.

First off, I want to say that my academic semester is saturated with discussions about nationalism. My two most intellectually challenging and interesting courses are dialogues about the varying theories and case studies of nationalism. I've been spending my evenings dissecting primordialist/ethno-symbolist/modernist approaches to nationalism, and then applying them to the case of "millet nations" in the Ottoman empire. Over the next half of the semester, I'll dive into Irish, Balkan and Russian cases.

As I've mentioned before, my days are largely composed of class, reading, and exercise. Basically this means I'm non-stop thinking about these theories...and this past Thursday, 29 October, was the perfect day to be bombarded with the physical manifestation of all these thoughts. Cumhurriyet Bayramı is the celebration of the day that Atatürk officially proclaimed the Independent Turkish Republic in 1923. The following are some images of Turkish pride...

Some of these flags have been around for a couple weeks now, like the smaller ones that line the streets in the Beşiktaş Belediyesi, for example. Part of this is a result of the strong inter-municipality competition among the districts in Istanbul, each governed by a different political party trying to prove that they are the most proud of the Turkish republic. Otherwise, overnight the city turns into one big star and crescent via businesses, families, schools, etc. all either proudly displaying the Ay Yıldız or bowing to the pressure of nationalist fervor. (Know the neighbor on the street who refuses to put an American flag up on July 4th?)

On Thursday morning, Cole, Grace and I trekked to Aksaray to check out the official Istanbul parade for Cumhurriyet Bayramı. I snapped all those pictures above on my bus ride from Hisarüstü to Aksaray. Below are some of the many photos I have from the actual parade. Summary = little kids with parents, lots of schoolchildren (some very evidently disgruntled and apathetic, some seemingly enthusiastic - perhaps an effect of a stern schoolmaster?), military and veterans, some politicians, etc...

I think it's quite easy to say that a bunch of flags and even the show of tanks, or military power, isn't too harmless. Except that this kind of mentality is not saved for Cumhurriyet Bayramı. It's something that unfortunately, a huge part of the Turkish population lives every day. Surges of "national unity" pride that are euphemisms for protests against the recognition of the problems that Turkey faces, problems that military, politicians, and then the people too often and too easily radicalize as theats to the unity of the Turkish Republic as Atatürk envisioned it 86 years ago.

In this sense, Turkey is stuck protecting the borders of its National Pact. Still, 89 years after Sevres, in the Sevres mentality - convinced that the world is still trying to tear apart Turkey as imperial powers did the Middle East in the inter-war period. (But now, new parties are the major threats to Turkey's "sovereignty": Armenia, the Kurds, Greece, Israel, America). I learn about Sevres mentality in class, and then it pops up left and right in newspapers, politics, and even in conversations with friends...and I just can't help but write about it.

Now, I'm going to take a major turn and stop writing about these things that really upset me. Having accused Turkey of being overly obsessed about a past that is no longer politically or socially relevant, I should say that actually, I really like Turkey! There have been times in the past 4.5 months that I feel like I don't belong here, that I can't stand and make me miss America so much. But the thing is...I can list out those times, I can tell you about what happened in that specific moment, I can probably describe those few guys who really blew it for Turkey. Those times are "countable," whereas my affection and love for the warmth of Turkish culture (things I promise to write about in my next blog post) is now a full-fledged part of my life. I don't know how I'm going to say bye to it on the 22nd...

Anyways, Cumhurriyet Bayramı Kutlu Olsun everyone. (Sorry, I'm 2 weeks late). And at the least, fierce nationalism puts on a great fireworks show:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Photo Recap of the Last Month

Let's start with some flashes of my life for the past 30 days:

this pic was taken on a night "touring" the old city with the newly arrived bogazici exchange crowd. don't know how this happened with the light, but i like it. shortly after i took this picture it started to POUR buckets of rain. it was awesome :).

the next two shots are from tyler and my trip to greece - well, more accurately a trip to the border. my visa was expiring so i had to go renew it by crossing the border, and ty and i decided it would be funnest to walk from turkey to greece. it was fun, except we had no time to actually chill in yunanistan. the walk through "no man's land" between the borders was so beautiful and picturesque we didn't even know what to do with ourselves.

the most ironic picture i've ever taken:

this is a view from an awesome hangout spot on my campus. if it has a name i don't know it, but it's awesome and we've spent quite a few evenings here enjoying this amazing view of bogazici koprusu and the strait.

the black sea and a lovely restaurant that kaan took me to. we literally spent 5 hours here just talking and enjoying the relaxing, chill atmosphere.

a typical night out in taksim with the crew: tyler, myself, daetan, paul and ruth.

THE best caffe latte i've had in turkey:

melisa and i on our girl date to the asian side (uskudar). we went to one of my favorite restaurants, dilruba, and enjoyed a top notch quality meal, an amazing view and each other's wonderful company. and afterwards, in amazingly typical turkish fashion, our waiter walked us all the way to the ferry. lol.

ruth and i :).

why have i not blogged for 30 days? well, i've been sort of rebelling against my blog and just indulging myself in experiencing life without too much reflection; and/or i've been reflecting on things i dont quite feel like blogging about. but i'm back!

the new big thing in my life is school. since it's started up, i've been reallyyy absorbed in my coursework. my primary goal for coming to bogazici was to expand my coursework (breaking free of the relatively limited selection at ucsd in near eastern history), i'm trying to take advantage of the unique opportunities i have here to learn in a different environment, from different perspectives. that's definitely happening. i feel myself pushed to think in new ways, and the challenge is exhilarating and of course, exhausting. i've included a pic below of school (stolen from melisa!) and i promise to take a few pics of my view from the classroom i spend most of my time in...

yeah, i definitely spend most of my time in class or reading and preparing for class. the second big use of my time is VOLLEYBALL. i just made the bogazici school team, sort of. since i'm leaving second semester i can't compete with them, but i'm setting for them as they train, and the girls are so great and sweet. i loveeee having a team again and though its also exhausting, its 100% worth it.

okay thats all for now. better, more consistent blogging to come. toodles!

Monday, September 14, 2009

birthday blogging

Hello all!!

I write to you from my pension terrace in Patara, Turkey. It has been an amazing week of “solo” adventuring for me. While I left Istanbul as a lone traveler, I have been so fortunate to make excellent company at each stage of my little getaway. In Olympos at the treehouse pension we were staying at, by some crazy stroke of good luck, I ran into Dilan, a friend of my new roommate in Hisarustu. I was standing in line with friends from the gullet cruise, waiting for dinner when all of a sudden Dilan walks past! Turns out Dilan is staying in Olympos for a few days, studying for her TOEFL and GRE exams. Since I, as usual, had no plans and no idea what I was doing, I decided to stay and hang out.

This turned into an excellent decision and a great night. I dined with Dilan and Selim, another PhD student at Bogazici, over which we discussed our various research interests and practiced my Turkish J. After dinner I did some significant catching up on the news (finally watched Obama’s healthcare speech - a 45 minute speech that turned into like an 1.5 hour exercise bc of the internet connection lol) and afterwards we set off for the beach:

a little love from the ancient inhabitants of olympos:

The olympos beach was beautiful at night, and I think more beautiful than in the day. (I spent most of the day at the beach, too, jumping off some small cliffs with Simon the Aussie), The moon was amazing, and the beach is flanked by 2 grand mountains…it was (as most of the trip has been) so surreal, so movie-like and somewhat unbelievable. Our little gang on the beach that night was an eclectic mix: Dilan, Selim, Zeynep, Matthias, myself and a few others who we had med at the pension. We walked and talked about some very interesting ideas until 2, when Zeynep, Selim and myself made the trek back to the pension. While I’d planned on heading to sleep, Bayram (the owner of Bayram’s treehouse pension) and I ended up chatting about Olympos, why and how treehouse pensions became such a big deal there, how he started this place (at 17) and how it boomed into this amazingly successful business. At 3, I called it a night and went to bed.

The next morning I decided it was time to move on. I picked Patara, having seen this amazing stetch of beautiful coastline from my gullet cruise days earlier and wanting to return. I said my goodbyes, boarded a bus and set off. There were 4 other travelers to Patara - Parisians making a 3 week tour around Turkey. We ran into each other later that day at the beach (of course the first thing I did after arriving at my pension was leave for the coast), and shared a few drinks and laughs about my ridiculously broken French.

I shared my evening with a group of 7 Cambridge students who are touring this side of turkey in their studies of Ancient Civilizations. Nick, Sophie, Sas, Alex, Alex, Steve and Antony. Nick, Sophie and Sas graciously extended an invitation to dinner, which I accepted. We trekked through Patara (one of the smallest towns I’ve ever been in - INCLUDING JULIAN, CALIFORNIA) to find dinner at the Flower Pension. The 8 of us enjoyed an amazing casserole and I was absolutely riveted in conversation through the entire dinner. Fresh faces, new questions, new stories…I was challenged in a refreshing way to explain my experience thus far in Istanbul, to summarize my thoughts, feelings, reactions to Turkey. They wanted more extensive responses to typical questions, and asked me more than anyone else thus far. So I re-started the explorative process that had otherwise been occurring almost exclusively in my journal. Needing to vocalize and articulate my thoughts about Istanbul’s atmosphere, it’s unique predicaments, about my personal experience in the city - all of this has catalyzed and invigorated my thinking and thoughts about Istanbul and me in it.

When we finished dinner, it really started to pour. Our waiter (in typical Turkish hospitality) volunteered to drive us home though the storm. A long game of poker and sleep were next in order.

In the morning I set off for a run to the beach. ONCE I arrived, it began to pourrrrr downnn. Like I haven’t been in rain this strong in a while. The beach café staff was warm and welcoming, as were 2 lovely Swiss ladies who obliged to give me a ride home (after, of course, I had enough good fun playing in the rain J). My French kicked in again - though dotted with Turkish. It is sooooooo hard to switch language gears!!! I couldn’t stop thinking in Turkish - couldn’t find the words in French and kept accidentally saying “evet” instead of “oui,” asking questions in Turkish rather than French…it was really an lol event.

Anyways I requested to be dropped off in the town center (slightly ashamed to ask for a ride up the hill to my pension) and so had to make a trek through the town in no pants (mine were far too wet and I had to take them off). That was fun….

At home, I cleaned off and the sun came out, so I just suited up again and headed for the beach again! Met up there with the Cambridge kids, and sort of spent the day learning a lotttt about Oxbridge. I really can’t even express how fortnate I feel to have made such great company…each of them has a wonderful, interesting distinct personality that is so much FUN for me to observe and absorb. After catching my first proper, beach sunset in months, we walked home.

And I spent my evening turning 20, brushing up on some history, relaxing in the cool of my pension and feeling quite content.

On this new decade:

I feel empowered. I feel more capable than I ever have, and excited for the decade of adventuring that lies ahead. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I’ve spent the majority of my last month in Turkey with 26 and 27 year olds. I am now more aware of my youth and also far more comfortable with it. In a new, confident way, I accept and embrace where I am in my life, and who I am in the world. Finally, I feel comfortable in my own body, comfortable with my mind and thoughts, and capable of whatever lies ahead.

While being alone on my birthday is a teensy bit sad, it is exactly what I wanted to do. To leave Istanbul and its 24-7 energy, noise, its 20 million people. To get away and figure out what was going on with me before Wednesday rolls around and I am again immersed in new everything at Bogazici. To move without dodging people on the streets, to sit in quiet, peaceful solitude and enjoy quality time with myself.

All of this being said, I miss you all and love you very much. And I am looking forward to a much-belated birthday celebration full of the people I love the most.