“Another generation came, and changed the position of the question.”
J. P. Sartre (From the foreword written for Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’)
The text you are reading now is a letter of invitation for the possible writers and readers of a theoretical journal, the preparation of which is continued in Istanbul and will be published quarterly, and plans to host all the disciplines and formations of social sciences. The initial editorial staff who is trying to ease the publication process has written this text, which is introduced to you along with all of its premises, open to discussion and improvement together with you, telling the reasons why the periodical Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory] sets off, what it aims at and its editorial frame.
Are social sciences possible in Turkey?
The text leading to new horizons titled “Open the Social Sciences: Report on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences” prepared by the commission constituted within Lisboncentered Gulbenkian Foundation, had remarkably receptive and reformist suggestions in terms of almost everyone working in the field social sciences in various countries of the world, in the late 1990′s when the text was published. Numerous attempts that this report inspired have influenced positively the production of the social sciences in different countries and it continues to do so. During the same period, discussions along this direction in Turkey had increased and had been tidied up with a symposium titled “Rethinking of the Social Sciences”. On the agenda of the symposium were the foundation, development and periodical conditions of social sciences in Turkey together with the perspectives on its future and the participators of different fields presented the problems on an open exchange-ideas basis.
The meticulousness in excluding the most serious and the bitterest question of the country, namely Kurdish question and the ongoing warfare, from the interest and workspace of the scientific endeavor, even in such a platform formulating its agenda on social sciences in Turkey, was the very point calling most of ours attention, who followed up the discussions or skimmed in the process afterwards. Taciturnity over “the question” was pointing to the restraints that the academia in Turkey possessed all along: it is anyway impossible for a people that has always been “invisible” as long as it is not mentioned could hold a place in the universe of concepts and analyses of the social sciences. Therefore, even in this kind of a symposium, the concepts like “Kurdish identity”, “Kurds” or simply “Kurdistan” as a geographical term that -by the very expression of the symposium itself- “being rethought about” and was being worked on to reach “a new comprehension of it” have been made invisible in the perception universe of the social sciences. On the other hand, it was known that the taciturnity in this illustrative case was nothing but a self-evident part of a broader taciturnity.
This situation is, of course, connected with a very fundamental and humanely motivation, namely fear. Scientists’ being convinced to make an effort that will be able to risk their lives as well as their futures or careers, namely, “to break taciturnity” needs some radical attitudes under the circumstances in Turkey, especially when taking the 90’s into account. On the other side, it can be said neither that there are ones who maintain such firm attitudes in Turkey nor that there are such challenges in the other countries where the levels of oppression are similar to those in Turkey. Today, some universal samples for academic ethic and honesty have been still lighting our studies. The fundamental problem which we, as the persons in the periodical titled Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory], are interested in and which motivates us to publish the journal is the frightening deepness of the main columns of the “system” in Turkey, which can send out their roots under the mental soil of the country. For this reason, we are asserting that the ‘expansion’ process of the social sciences should be compelled to extend the liberalities to a higher level and that the “Kurds should be given a place”. In the same way, underlining the necessity that Kurds should anyhow expand in the social sciences, we position our periodical, the publication preparation of which we are still continuing, on these two principals.
As undertaking Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory], we welcome gladly growing interest to Kurds and Kurdish question in the different, various and productive discussion atmosphere, which begins to crystallize recently, in the social sciences, yet we have the belief that the products, which have been introduced in the framework of the said interest, have not been subjected to a healthy assortment and criticism. Excluding the nonsense efforts like reading of intention or concealed aims, we think that the important thing in these studies is that the analyses, resolutions, theoretical studies related to Kurdish society should be discussed in a free atmosphere, regarding academic criteria and more healthy results should be reached. We defend that the acceptance that Kurds are the ones who traditionally “cannot represent themselves but can only be represented” should be rejected in all platforms.
In short, the basic motivation which brings us together is the belief that in Turkey, the information production in the social sciences which is tried to be realized excluding Kurds is an organized action of lie production. Therefore, our aim is to arouse an organized and systematic resistance with Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory] against this organized and systematic lie production. We believe that this effort can be realized only with the ones who are the aware of this fact and who want to struggle with this in a way. We put forward that only such an aim makes social sciences possible in Turkey.
In the pursuit of what drifted in Mavera-unnehir [Transoxiana]
In his poem called “Monument of the unknown student”, the wrong question that Ece Ayhan, had “the state” and “nature” pose is still alive in the memories of most of ours: “Where does Mavera-unnehir run into?” does ask Ayhan and the poem continues with these lines:
The only correct answer from a hand raised in the last row was:
-Into the heart of the rebellion of pale lower class children!*
What the image of “the rebellion of pale lower class children” evokes in the minds of the post-1980 generation in Turkey can be regarded as the main motivation inspiring the attempt to publish this journal. This historical phenomenon which is called “Kurdish question” and can actually be handled as an outcome of modernization / nationalization processes that conflicts in terms of time and locality scope continues with a bunch of problems that still wait to be solved today. On the other hand, the children who grew up side by side with this “rebellion” and carry the traces of this process upon themselves go on with their academic-scientific studies scattered and remarkably excluded from the solution process of the question, along with their professional skills, experience and accumulation that they gained at the universities they could quietly enrol somehow.
What is aimed with the periodical project is to get together the scientists and candidate scientists from all the disciplines of social sciences – without distinction of their statue or positions- who have a say on this very issue, are occupied and concerned with it and willing to scientifically work on it. The journal positions itself as a bridge over such a communication network and sets its sights on being a drain where the articles and products come out then can circulate around.
Method and format
To sum up what is aimed with the journal Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory] can be itemized that, bearing the reality of fragmentation in mind, analyzing Kurdish society in sociological, economic, demographic, anthropologic, cultural, politic and historic aspects, and obtaining in-depth, consistent and scientific knowledge on these fields; shedding light on some societal problems and examining the solutions; encouraging the new generation people who plan to study within the social sciences field and ensuring a coordination through constructing a bridge among the scientists who engaged their studies on Kurds but are mostly unrelated to others in the field.
From this point, by determining different titles as file subject for its each number, the periodical prefers a format which combines the studies related to the subject orderly and encourages strong articles under detailed titles rather than weak articles under big titles. In this way, with appropriate file subjects, an entire and general description of Kurdish society and deriving knowledge about the role of the dynamics of social change and the results of it; the analysis of stratification in Kurdish society, of the positions of the classes and relations between them and the analysis of the interaction between current political processes and social dynamics; the crystallization of information related to migration, population, poverty, differences between regions related to development, local authorities, urbanization, language, development, education and health; the research of the dynamics of ideological and political transformation experienced in Kurdish society and relations between society and politics and political power are the goals of the journal. By all means, in each number of the journal, besides the file with a specific title, there will be book reviews, translated texts, and independent articles from various disciplines which open way to new research topics, discussions and which provide important entries.
The proposed file subject for the first number of Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory] is “The change dynamics and classes in Kurdish society”. Under this file title, there will be given place to the articles which fulfill the criteria of academic publication and spelling and which can be evaluated in the framework of the topics and sub-titles which have been tried to be explained above. The main title and other subtitles determined for the first number are entirely open to the discussion and improvement.
The last word
As F. Bacon states, “the truth is closer to the one who makes mistakes than the one who is in confusion.” With undertaking of Toplum ve Kuram [Society and Theory]
we do not abstaining from doing mistakes, rather, for clearing out today’s confusion, we want the issues which are obviously seen, but which have not yet been spoken about to be discussed in the framework of possibilities which have been provided by social sciences. Certainly, our collective study shall not be bordered with these aims; rather we hope that it will develop to make contributions to the theoretical openings in the social sciences. We never forget that the precondition for new theories is the crisis, so we want to underline that we will spend all our contributions to bring up the hope and to get rid of the crisis in the way of social equality and freedom.
In this context, our summons and invitation are to those social scientists who maintain, investigate, wonder the study titles which we tried to explain through this article and those who seek for their own problematic. We invite you to share your ideas, proposals and studies to multiply and enrich these titles.
With our best regards,
Toplum ve Kuram