Ayten Alkan

Until recently (August 2016), I worked at the University of İstanbul, Faculty of Political Science. I taught at Political Science and Public Administration Department of the Faculty, as well as at Women’s Studies Department of Social Sciences Institute. Before University of Istanbul, I worked at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Ankara for thirteen years (1995-2008) and lectured at the same departments there. Besides, I was active together with the group of Women’s Studies Centre of the University. I contributed to many training programs, pilot projects, and workshops in the areas of local governments, local / urban politics and gender inequality, and women’s empowerment at various regions of Turkey and abroad. I delivered, at undergraduate and graduate levels, courses such as Local Governments, Space – Politics and Gender, Social Sciences and Gender, Metropolis: Perspectives of Political Economy and Culture, Urban Theories, Regional and Local Development Policies.

In 2005 my doctoral dissertation titled “Gender Sensitivity of Local Governments: Case of Ankara” received the Young Social Scientists Award of Turkish Social Sciences Association, and was published under the title Local Governments and Gender: Invisible Existence of Women in the City. However, the process of conducting “research with women” was not complete for me, as all the methodological discussions on the process of doing “scientific feminist study” contained the basic principles of “focusing on the transformation of patriarchal social institutions, and women’s empowerment through research.” Clearly, it was important to write such a thesis in a traditional discipline and convince the colleagues and the academic community that the study was “truly academic and scientific”, but still it could not be said that my dissertation and I had yet served to empower women. The information I had gathered from tens of women was sitting there, in those 300 pages, waiting to go back to their real possessors. An opportunity appeared then: The March 2004 local elections were coming up, and Turkey’s organized women’s movement was targeting for the first time local governments & local politics. So, for three years I was an active participant of the “For Tomorrow from Today” campaign, which was ran by Ka-Der (Association for Supporting and Training Women Candidates in Politics) in association with Ankara University’s Women’s Studies Center. Since then, a stream of my professional life has been on trainings, workshops, projects, consultancies, and cooperation with NGOs aiming women’s empowerment.

This kind of “engaged-science” which I learnt from feminist epistemology inspired me in my other specialization areas, too. I have been active in urban social movements, besides teaching urban issues at the university. I worked with local administrations and in local projects, as well as delivering courses on local politics and local-self governance at undergraduate and graduate levels. If I could write on the Gezi movement of Turkey, it was because I was one of the protestors of the resistance. And finally, if I could lecture on issues like “local democracy, peaceful communities, urban rights, and local-self government” that was partly because I was a peace activist in Turkey. In short, “success in academic study” for me is;

  • the audacity to ask new questions for old problems,
  • the determination and discipline to find the answers,
  • the perseverance to aim voicing and serving to the “voiceless”
  • the ability and ambition to establish dialogues between different disciplines and sciences, and between “outside” and “inside” of academia
  • and the inquiry for creating forms of knowledge which helps not only understanding the world and actual social reality, but also changing it towards a freer, more peaceful, and less suffering possibility.

I authored many articles, book chapters, presentations, translations, reports, guide-books and book reviews throughout twenty years of my career as an academician. At the end of 1990s and by early 2000s, academic studies and research on “gender and space or local politics” were a few and also partial in Turkey, when I -as a young academic at the beginning of her career- intended to study on this question. However, throughout 2000s, I witnessed an increased academic interest on the subject. Besides, the same period had been scene to avant-garde projects in the political and civil spheres. So, I decided to bring many of those studies together in a book (2009, ed. A. Alkan, Cins Cins Mekân [Gendered Spaces / Genus of Spaces] İstanbul: Varlık). Here, I not only brought together fresh studies, but also tried to develop a theoretical framework to retell the story of “social space / urban studies” and “gender studies” by both focusing on the similar epistemological turning points, and on the phases and forms of dialogue between two spheres. Both the introductory framework, and articles in the edition turned out to be an important reference source for people studying on spatial dynamics, feminist geography, and urban studies in Turkey.

By the end of summer 2015, I started to think and search about the possible theoretical ways of bridging the gap between the debates of “animal rights” and the “right to the city”. There exists a relatively extensive literature on the effects of urbanization and urban life on the non-human, on changing human-animal relations, on formerly urbanized and recently adapted species, and on changing geographies of animals via time and space. Yet, I had not come across an academic effort to liaise the notion of the right to the city to the moral, political, and juristic debate on animal rights. In order to realize this aim, I believe that one has to (i) revisit the history of urbanization tracking the ever-changing human-nonhuman relations, (ii) reach a comprehension of the city and urban life so as to include “other animals”.

From the very beginning I was very enthusiastic to be able to pursue this relatively new research question for me. Yet, my academic studies have been seriously interrupted, following the 11th January, when I and hundreds of my colleagues became subjects to a top-down-initiated campaign of intimidation, including interrogations and prosecutions for signing and collectively declaring a petition for peace (titled “We will not be a party to this crime” referring to the violations of basic human rights at the South-East of Turkey). The process regretfully rendered a political and professional environment lacking the very basic scholarly needs such as academic freedom, freedom of expression, and convenient conditions for maintaining academic work effectively and in peace. Finally, I found myself at a crossroads, where I would continue resisting to keep my position at the university despite various formal and informal punitive actions of the university administration (such as being excluded from MA and PhD juries, and being not allowed for participation in international academic events or opportunities, including my right to a 3-month visiting fellowship in France), or I would resign -despite its potential financial difficulties. I chose the second. I was luckily able to study as a visiting scholar at L’UMR CITERES of University of Tours for two months (October-November 2016) as a recipient of the research scholarship of the French Embassy in Turkey, and was able to continue my studies in Paris for one month (December 2016) thanks to a grant provided by FMSH-Paris.

I continued my studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, as a selected member for the academic year 2017/2018. My research was also supported by Culture & Animals Foundation. For the academic year 2018/2019 I am a EURIAS fellow at Hanse-Wiesenschaftskolleg (HWK) in Delmenhorst-Germany.

You can see my full “CV & Publications List” from :  CV & Publications List

 

 

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