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Purge, Exile, and Resistance:
Rethinking the Conflict of the Faculties through the Case of Academics for Peace in Turkey

Cem Özatalay


To the memory of Mehmet Fatih Traş

Author’s notes

I thank to all my signatory colleagues who have shown active solidarity with each other since January 11, 2016, and fought for their rights. Again, I am especially grateful to those who voluntarily contributed to generate the database about right violations against Academics for Peace, which I considerably utilized in this article, and for sure to my five colleagues and friends who gently accepted my interview requests and shared with me their precious experiences. Finally, I also thank to the editors of the EJTS for their comments and suggestions, and also for their willingness to devote a special issue on university in struggle.

Full text


1Like dissident journalists, writers, and artists, the persecution of dissident academics by governments has been a common issue since the beginning of modern times. Raison d’état has frequently judged it necessary to conduct purges in universities, particularly in times of crisis and transition. In the case of Turkey, as a late industrialized country with feeble and dependent democratic institutions, this “national interest” argument seems to come into play more frequently, feeding the idea that “the history of universities in Turkey is nothing but a history of purges” (Günal 2013).

  • 1 As Erozan and Turan stated, in 1982, “the military committee […] engaged in a major reorganization (...)

2A bird’s-eye view of Turkey’s previous academic purges provides strong arguments to show the relationship between academic purges and transitions in capital accumulation regimes and related changes in the power bloc of the country. The first academic purge happened in the wake of the 1929 Great Depression. In that period, Turkey underwent a transition from liberal to dirigiste economy that, in 1933, was accompanied by a university reform entailing a sweeping “anti-liberal” purge at the Darülfünun, which was the only autonomous modern academic institution of the country as of that time (Ege; Hagemann 2012; Mazıcı 1995; Zürcher 2017). The second academic purge took place in 1948 when a liberal, outward-facing economic policy was substituted for the dirigiste interventionism that had been in force during the interwar period (Boratav 1998: 93–96). As Turkey’s dominant classes had decided to realign with the Western bloc in the post-WWII world and, in parallel with the rise of McCarthyism in the US, an “anti-communist” purge cleaned out the Faculty of Language, History, Geography at Ankara University in 1948 (for a detailed analysis, see Çetik 2008). The timing of the third academic purge in the country corresponded to the aftermath of the 1960 military coup d’état, which institutionally implanted the import substitution industrialization model in the economy and its triumvirate power bloc on a political level (Parla 1998). This period of transition led to a new wave of purge in universities, which has later come to be known as the “incident of the 147s” (see Alkan 2017). Finally, a fourth purge happened following the military coup d’état of 1980, which has been taken as the starting point of neoliberalization process in Turkey. This round of academic purge occurred in 1983 based on post-coup Martial Code No. 14021. Throughout this colorful history of purges in modern Turkey, hundreds of academics lost their jobs: in 1933, with the abolition of the Darülfünun, two-thirds of its academic staff (approximately 100 scholars), in 1948 five brilliant academics in the social sciences and humanities, in 1960 a total of 147 academics, and in 1983, according to different sources, 73 to 117 academics were temporarily or definitely dismissed (Ulusoy; Bora 2019).

3The last purge in Turkey’s universities, including that of the Academics for Peace (AfP), seems to follow a similar pattern in the sense of having been one of the outputs of a serious economic and political crisis. Between 2002 and 2007, Turkey’s economy grew at an annual rate of 7.2% and the country performed relatively well throughout the global financial crisis. In 2012, however, Turkey’s rate of economic growth sharply slowed down to 2.2% (Jarosiewicz 2013; Peker; Camdemir 2013). The country’s GDP per capita steadily decreased from $12,519 in 2013 to $9,042 in 2019 (GDP per Capita (Current US$) - Turkey | Data, 2020). From a mainstream institutionalist point of view, the end of economic growth in the post-2007 epoch is related to the breakdown of the economic and political institutional reforms and the EU-Turkey membership talks that had been simultaneously carried out after 2002 (Acemoglu; Ucer 2014). For this kind of approach, the authoritarian drift in Turkey and academic purge as one of its symptoms can be interpreted as consequences of the AKP government’s withdrawal from democratic institutional reforms. However, another point of view, particularly a Marxist one, stresses the precedence of economic factors. More precisely, this position sees the authoritarian drift in Turkey as a rapidly evolving phenomenon following the aforementioned economic slowdown in 2012, rather than a consequence of interrupted institutional reforms. For example, according to economist Ümit Akçay, “after 2012 ... a slowdown in economic growth unleashed a new series of conflicts ... within the new political establishment, between AKP and the Gülenists, and ended with the failed coup attempt in 2016” (Akçay 2018: 16). Conflicts within the state due to a deadlock in the existing accumulation regime and its dominant ideology, and the pursuit of a certain restauration are important to understand our case, because, as İzge Günal highlights, academic purges in Turkey are generally related to the intra-dominant class battles and occur as “manifestations of a concern about the restoration of the dominant ideology” (Günal 2013: 121–122).

  • 2 Built around the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen brotherhood made significant progress (...)
  • 3 There are numerous unclear issues regarding the unfolding of the July 15 incident. The starting tim (...)

4No matter which explanation is adopted, it is evident that the AfP case occurred in a context where troublesome economic stagnation was accompanied by severe battles within the state between ultra-nationalists, including those with pro-Eurasian tendencies, and the Gülenists2, which prepared the way for a “coup within a coup” on July 15, 20163. One can interpret these battles within the state, with reference to the analysis of Yahya Madra and Sedat Yılmaz, as convulsions of transition from populist neoliberalism towards corporate nationalism (Madra; Yılmaz 2019), or to Ian Bruff as symptoms of the rise of authoritarian neoliberalism (Bruff 2014). The current authoritarian drift would be considered as either the death agony or the resurfacing of a constituent part of neoliberalism. No matter which one of these explanations deems to be true, it is clear that the neoliberal “centaur state’s” (Wacquant 2010) paternalistic and authoritarian body has gradually prevailed over its “liberal head” in Turkey in the last decade and declared its triumph after the 15 July incident, throughout the two-year long state of emergency.

5The AfP purge started rather randomly with the aim of criminalizing and terrorizing signatories just after a petition was put into circulation on January 11, 20164. However, it is important to emphasize that this process gained a more systematic and sweeping character with the post-July 15 state of emergency. While the number of signatory academics who had lost their job by dismissals, forced resignations, or retirements was about 50 as of May 30, 2016 (HRFT Academy 2019: 12), this number escalated to 549 in the post-July 15 period (Academics for Peace 2020). Furthermore, the difference before and after July 15 was not only quantitative but also qualitative. The dismissal by executive decree, which was one of the most distinguishing features of the post-July 15 period, is considered as a “gross violation of human rights” (Körükmez et al. 2019) and a “civic death,” leading to the complete exclusion of the ousted academics from economic, social, and political life (Sertdemir Özdemir; Özyürek 2019).

6The pattern of the last academic purge is similar to previous ones in terms of being linked to and motivated by transitions in the capital accumulation regime and associated changes in the power bloc; nevertheless, this last wave has been clearly more devastating than others. Why did the new power bloc of the post-July 15 period act so far-reaching as it was stretching out its muscles as a show of strength against academics? Would a symbolic purge, like that of 1948 in the Faculty of Language, History, and Geography, have not sufficed to restore the dominant ideology according the priorities of the new power bloc?

7The last purge has not targeted academics only. During the state of emergency, at least 125.678 public servants have been dismissed and banned from public service (“Olağanüstü Hal İşlemleri İnceleme Komisyonu Kararları Hakkında Duyuru (02.10.2020)” 2020). Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir and Esra Özyürek made the claim that the extremity of the response has its roots in the rise of necropolitics, or the politics of death, which has come to the forefront together with “new authoritarianism” as a form of governmentality (Sertdemir Özdemir; Özyürek 2019). This argument is globally relevant in clarifying the distinctive logic of the last purge with respect to the use of power techniques. However, this approach does not sufficiently take into account the particularity of the university as a structural whole with its own transformations, internal tensions, and conflicts, and as a specific field of implementation of both necropolitics and neoliberal transformations. A special focus on the university might allow revealing the heterogeneous and stratified, even contradictory, structure of the category of persecuted and/or purged academics, and also putting the last purge in Turkey in the context of the ongoing crisis of higher education and academic freedom across the world.

8This is what this article aims to explore through the case of the AfP in Turkey. What are the various profiles of the purged academics in Turkey? Which political, ideological, and economic dynamics have had impacts on the making of these heterogeneous and inequality-charged academic profiles? What impact has the global crisis of the university had on these academics before and after the purge? How were the post-purge strategies of the persecuted academics and their collegial solidarity networks abroad affected by the crisis of the university? To what extent have the international solidarity initiatives that were launched for at-risk scholars, especially the Peace letter signatories, been successful in addressing the problems of those academics? Finally, to what extent has necropolitical violence against dissident academics been intermingled with the neoliberal restructuration of the university?

  • 5 Based on the persecution of the AfP, 822 signatories were put on trial between October 2017 and Jul (...)

9In response to these questions, as a persecuted and prosecuted yet not expelled Peace letter signatory5, I develop an analysis based on my own trajectory and experiences in this period. A database collectively generated by AfP volunteers during the prosecution process and a limited sample of interviews with initiators or contributors of three ventures (the PAUSE Program in France, the New University in Exile Consortium in the US, and Off-University in Germany) are also utilized. In this way, this study attempts to understand the limits and potential capacities of such ventures to overcome neoliberal brutality that is inclined to take a necropolitical form in hybrid regimes, and to which marginalized academics especially from non-market-friendly disciplines of the humanities and social sciences are exposed.

  • 6 By the term of “academic purge” I mean the massive expulsion of academics from universities due to (...)

10Before examining these initiatives of academic solidarity and resistance against the anti-democratic turn in the world-political trajectory (albeit mostly by resisting authoritarianism rather than neoliberalism), it will be helpful to take a closer look at the most recent academic purge6 with a special focus on transformations of higher education in Turkey. This may provide an understanding of not only the interconnection between the purge of the AfP and the neoliberal restructuration of the university, but also the negative impacts of the latter on the aforementioned initiatives and their ability to achieve their objectives.

Spatial, Disciplinary and Ideological Distinctions Between Purged Academics

  • 7 When saying “allegedly Gülenist,” I do not include all academics who lost their jobs with the 15 pr (...)
  • 8 Even though, centre/periphery distinction is ambiguous because of the spatial and temporal relativi (...)

11The last academic purge in Turkey targeted mainly two groups: left-leaning academics, primarily including AfP signatories, and right-leaning academics allegedly related to the Gülen movement. The profiles of the first group, who constitute a minority of approximately 10% among all purged academics, and those of the right-leaning majority have little similarity between them7. Composed largely by junior or early-career scholars who are mostly specialized in social sciences and humanities, the first group was purged mainly from public and private universities in metropolitan areas. In turn, the purge of the second group mainly besieged provincial universities,8 even targeted a large number of acting and former university presidents and other executives, and composed principally by academics specialized on STEM (Sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics). This work is mainly focused on gathering information on the AfP. However, the widespread presence of right leaning Gülenist academics in Turkey’s universities before the July 15 incident and also their massive purge under Turkey’s state of emergency rule from July 2016 to July 2018 needs to be touched upon briefly.

  • 9 Following the July 15 incident, acting or former rectors of Adnan Menderes University, Akdeniz Univ (...)
  • 10 For a more detailed analysis of these “taşra üniversiteleri,” see Şengül (2014) and Özarslan (2019)(...)

12Whether a part of any entryist organization or not, one can roughly depict the profile of Gülenist academics as moderately statist and nationalist Muslim, usually with an uncritical stance towards both neoliberalism and authoritarianism. Furthermore, referred to as “Weberian Islamists” by some scholars (Keskin 2012), a competitive spirit has always been encouraged in and by Gülenist circles (Özdalga 2000). In short, the great majority of the purged allegedly Gülenist academics were not known as dissidents in their universities and, due to this, at the time of their prosecution a considerable number of them were holding executive positions in these universities9. Another distinctive aspect of those who were purged on charges of affiliation with the Gülenist circles is that they were mostly employed in provincial universities (taşra üniversiteleri), which can be considered “second-rate” or “backwater” universities in the Turkey’s context10.

Massification of Higher Education as “Provincialization” of the University

13In fact, Turkey has become one of the developing countries making significant leaps of progress, in line with the global trend of the neoliberal massification of higher education. The gross enrollment ratio of students in higher education institutions (within the total population of the five-year age group continuing from secondary school) was under 10% in 1970 in Turkey and had reached only 20% in 1994. In the wake of the AKP-led neoliberal reforms of the 2000s, this figure leaped forward to 94.7% in 2015 (Turkey - Gross Enrolment Ratio in Tertiary Education, 2020). As a result, in the 2018-2019 academic year, 7,740,502 students were enrolled in higher education institutions (Yükseköğretim Bilgi Yönetim Sistemi, n.d.), while this figure was only 2,868,222 in Germany (Statista 2020), whose population is approximately equivalent to that of Turkey. An increase in the number of universities comes forward as another consequence of the massification of higher education, with a rise from 53 in 1994 to 73 in 2004 and to 204 in 2020 (Gunay; Gunay 2011; Tekneci 2016; “Yükseköğretim Bilgi Yönetim Sistemi” n.d.).

14Philip Altbach, one of the most important education comparatists worldwide, claims that “no country can afford mass access and high quality - it will never happen” (Altbach et al. 2012: 186–187) and Turkey is certainly no exception. The massification of higher education through the opening of “backwater” universities in every province of Turkey, mostly without sufficient and qualified academic staff, apparently made a massive purge technically possible. Because the quantity is always more easily replaceable than the quality.

  • 11 That is not to say that the exposure to repression of this insignificant minority in terms of quant (...)

15Consequently, nearly four-fifths (4890 of 6081) of the academics purged during the post-July 15 state of emergency rule were from “provincial universities” and the percentage of purged signatory academics within this group was an insignificant minority (see Figure 1)11.

Figure 1: Ratios of purged “Academics for Peace” to all purged academics in the three largest cities and the rest of the country.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

  • 12 Faculty Member Trainee Program of Higher Education Council remained in force between 2010 and 2016. (...)

16For example, the most massive purges occurred in Çanakkale 18 Mart University and Kütahya Dumlupınar University, both founded in 1992 and where the ratios of purged allegedly Gülenist academics to all active academic staff respectively reached to 12.40% (205 out of 1653 academics) and 13.59% (168 out of 1236 academics). However, in these universities there were only 2 purged AfP signatory academics, one of whom was a PhD student in İstanbul with a position at Dumlupınar in the framework of the Faculty Member Trainee Program (ÖYP)12. In other words, while the purged right-leaning academics were mostly from provincial universities, that was not statistically the case for signatory academics. Officially 45.78% of the signatory academics purged with executive decrees were from İstanbul, Ankara, or İzmir, but when we take into account the number of purged research assistants in the framework of the Teaching Staff Trainee Program (ÖYP) studying in İstanbul, Ankara, or İzmir with a provincial university affiliation on paper, this percentage reaches approximately to 55%. Finally, when we add to this value the number of all dismissals, forced retirements, and forced resignations due to governmental or administrative pressure over signatory academics, the percentage of signatory academics who were purged while working, studying, and/or living in the three principal cities of Turkey increases to approximately 65% of all purged signatories.

17Thus, given how an overwhelming majority of purged academics were accused of being connected to the Gülen movement, and that the majority of this group was from provincial universities, one could conclude that the massive character of this purge was related to the global massification of higher education. This is one of the manifestations of neoliberalization process, seeking to transform universities into “corporate suppliers” (Collini 2017) in order to contribute to regional and national economic and societal development (J. Goddard 2011; Pinheiro et al. 2018; Trippl et al. 2015). The neoliberalization of universities has been carried out in the wake of ideas about “knowledge-based economy,” which were in reality nothing but “economic imaginary” (Jessop 2017), and their effects have always been “mediated through inherited institutional landscapes” (Brenner et al. 2010). In the case of the new Turkey’s provincial universities, as their host cities were generally deprived of a high value-added regional knowledge economy and their processes of establishment were almost without exception embedded in local and national power relations (Şengül 2014), clientelism frequently served as a way of recruitment (For some concrete cases of clientelist recruitment, see Tekin 2019: 29–32). In these universities academic capitalism gained, to use Bob Jessop’s concepts (2018), predatory rather than market-rational characteristics. That is to say, even though academic capitalism has more or less predatory characteristics everywhere, distortion of rational “capitalist principles for personal, institutional, or political gain” (Jessop 2018: 108) are prevalent in these universities. It is evident that provincial universities in Turkey have always represented a target for right-leaning political movements, including Islamists and ultra-nationalists, within the context of the goal of conquering power. As a result, the power bloc of the post-15 July did not hesitate in carrying out a sweeping purge in these provincial universities in order to replace one group of right-leaning (allegedly Gülenists) academics with another one (apparently ultra-nationalist, Euroasianist, and pro-AKP). However, the purge of AfP signatories had been started six months before the July 15 incident and the profile of the signatory academics was in many respects quite different from that of right-leaning purged academics. Close examination of the beginning of the AfP purge will help shed light on some distinguishing features of this group’s profile as well as the characteristics of their purge.

The First Phase of Purge of the AfP in Private and Public Universities

18Six months before the July 15 incident and eight and a half months before the publication of the first academic purge list annexed to State of Emergency Executive Decree No. 672, signatory academics had already become the target of the government. Following the release of the petition entitled “We will not be party to this crime!” on January 11, 2016, a lynching campaign was immediately launched against them under the guidance of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey. In this context, the signatory academics endured a series of rights violations in the hands of political authorities and university administrations; some of the signatories were detained and arrested, while some others were suspended or dismissed from their academic positions. During this period, as one of the signatories, while participating in a financial solidarity campaign, I also offered to update the list collectively prepared by the AfP Solidarity volunteers, recording the signatory academics’ job losses due to dismissals, retirements, and resignations. In this context, I had the opportunity to collect information about the profile of the first purged signatories and, in September 2016, shared those findings to the AfP email group. Those shared findings were based on some descriptive statistics about 105 academics that were already purged, and nearly half of them were working in private foundation universities. As the expansion of private universities in Turkey might be understood in relation to the global neoliberalization of universities, let me share some of the information about these institutions.

19The introduction of private foundation universities in the Turkey’s higher education system dates back to the aftermath of the 1980 military coup, when the neoliberalization process had newly started. In 1984, with an amendment to Article No. 130 of the 1982 Constitution – also known as the Putsch Constitution, foundations were allowed to establish nonprofit private education organizations alongside the public institutions (Birler 2012: p.140). The number of private foundation universities was 3 until 1995, and it increased to 23 in 2001. In the wake of the massification and marketization of higher education under AKP governments, however, this number reached 54 in 2010 and 75 in 2020, despite the closure of 15 private universities allegedly founded and run by Gülenist circles in 2016.

20The great majority of foundation universities in Turkey are in fact profit-seeking institutions and, to achieve their goal, quite similar to public provincial universities, they need to maintain good relations with the central government. Serdar Değirmencioğlu stresses the similarity between these two “new generation” neoliberal university governance models by highlighting two sequences that happened before the AfP case: in the first sequence, at an opening ceremony, the president of a provincial university kissed the hand of a notable donor, who was an industrialist and a “true believer” in the AKP government, while in the second, during an introductory meeting at a new private foundation university, a young, newly employed scholar encountered the founder of the private university and kissed his extended hand, as expected (Değirmencioğlu, 2015). “Paternalistic respect” to political and/or economic power is apparently a common denominator of these newly founded institutions, and these ones did not hesitate to immediately punish signatory academics just after a lynching campaign being launched by the central government.

21The first job losses were recorded in private universities located in metropolises, which resulted with the dismissal, forced resignation or retirement of 41 signatory academics. With the lack of employment security in most of these private institutions, these rapid dismissals were hardly coincidental.

22Signatory academics in provincial universities encountered with bureaucratic and administrative oppression in addition to the lynching campaign against the AfP since January 2016. Disciplinary investigations and preventive suspensions were frequently used methods by public university administrations. Unlike their private counterparts, public universities did not immediately dismiss signatory academics, who are public servants entitled to legal protections under the Public Servants Law. Some university administrations, like that of Mersin University, adopted legally controversial methods, such as non-renewal of employment contracts for non-tenured signatory academics.

23The declaration of state of emergency came to the help of these university administrations. After that, a large number of public universities gradually joined the purge against AfP signatories. On September 1, 2016, the Decree Laws No. 672 and 673 were published with the names of 44 signatory academics in the annexed lists of dismissed public servants.

24As the figure below shows, apart from Kocaeli University and Ankara University that jointed to the purge after the declaration of the state of emergency, the first wave of purge had already started through the “new generation” universities just after the petition got into the circulation (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Universities in which more than 4 signatory academics have lost their jobs by September 12, 2016.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

25Furthermore, on October 29, 2016, the amendment to the Law on Higher Education, which re-regulated the appointment of university presidents, doubtlessly had an impact on the evolution of the purge. According to the amendment, “public universities’ presidents will be appointed by the President of the Republic from among three candidates nominated by Higher Education Council, and foundation-owned universities presidents will be appointed also by the President from among the candidates nominated by the boards of trustees and approved by Higher Education Council” (see Akça et al. 2017: 95). Thereby it has nullified intra-university elections and jettisoned democratic input of the eligible faculty members in the selection procedure of their president.

26Following the ratification of this amendment, public university presidents, whose appointment renewal henceforth depends on the individual will of the country’s president, have turned the heat up and increased the pressure on the signatory academics. Some of these presidents chose a massive purge without distinction (see Figure 3), some others pursued a strategy based on sacrificing a relatively small group of academics by either directly sending their names to the capital, Ankara, or indirectly compelling them to resign or retire. A minority of these presidents did not touch the signatories.

Figure 3: Universities that had purged more than 20 signatory academics (i.e. more than 3.5% of all purged signatory academics).

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

27One can make a certain correlation between these three attitudes and three types of universities, according to the typology developed by Muzaffer Kaya (2018). For Kaya the three main category of universities in Turkey are as follows: “1) higher tier public and private universities in the metropolises; (2) lower tier private universities that serviced the lower classes mostly located in the metropolises; (3) and lower tier public universities located mostly in smaller and middle-sized cities” (Kaya 2018). Provided that “lower tier public universities in the metropolises” fall under the university type 2, this categorization, which can be represented as a pyramidal structure, is quite illustrative to understand the differentiation of university presidents in their purge strategies.

28Figure 4 shows clearly that among the universities with the largest numbers of signatories, as seen on Figure 3, only Ankara University, executed a massive purge against AfP.

Figure 4: Universities with the largest number of signatory academics in January 2016.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

Humanities and Social Sciences as Target of the Purge

29The difference between the right-leaning and left-leaning purged academics was not only related to the “geographical spatiality” of the universities; there was also a difference in their scientific disciplines’ place within the web of academic power relations. The “Turkey’s Academy – Under the State of Emergency” report indicates that of the 6081 academics who were dismissed with executive decrees, 2493 held a degree in the social sciences and humanities, while 3067 were specialized in natural and applied sciences. The numbers of dismissed academics from the fields of fundamental sciences and arts and performances were respectively 342 and 81 (Academics for Human Rights 2018). According to these figures, academics from applied sciences seem to have been relatively most exposed to the academic purge and necropolitical violence. However, when we zoom in on the specific cluster of AfP cases, the ratios among the scientific disciplines change dramatically.

30In a preliminary comparative analysis concerning the case of AfP, Efe Kerem Sözeri had already clearly showed how much social scientists and humanists outweigh among the signatory academics (Sözeri 2016). Moreover, based on a dataset of 4,279 academics he created that comprises of 2,212 AfP signatories and the signatories of the ‘counter’-petition by “Academics for Turkey”, the 54% of the signatories of AfP are women, and one-third of the peace signatories are from universities abroad (33%) in a sharp contrast with the majority-male “Academics for Turkey”.

  • 13 The common quality of signatories from hard and natural sciences seems to be either being an engage (...)

31The pattern of preponderant persecution of the social scientists and humanists continued throughout the purge of AfP. On September 12, 2016, of the 112 dismissed AfP signatories, 87 were from the humanities, arts, and social sciences (see Figure 5). In other words, the purge of the AfP, unlike that of alleged Gülenists, unfolded first of all as a purge of the social scientists, artists, philosophers, and humanists from Turkey’s universities13. The pattern of the purge following the state of emergency with executive decrees did not deviate from the initial one (see Figure 6).

Figure 5: Distribution of 105 dismissed AfP in September 2016, according to their disciplines.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

Figure 6: Distribution of 414 AfP purged with executive decrees according to their disciplines.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

  • 14 This question is answered by Barış Ünlü with reference to his own concept of the “Turkishness contr (...)

32At this point, two interrelated questions need to be briefly answered: why the purge of AfP targeted social scientists and humanists, especially in metropolitan universities, and why this group of scholars had become increasingly dissident and dared to challenge the Turkish state over a question where the raison d’état14 draws the red line. The answer to these questions seems to lie in the declined status of social sciences and humanities within the power structure of the neoliberal university. This entails, on the one hand, a sentiment of frustration among social scientists and humanists who have become increasingly alienated and been deprived of not only material but also symbolical resources of representation, while, on the other hand, as a reply to this structural frustration, the rise of engaged scholarship perspectives in social sciences and humanities.

33“The conflict of the faculties” and the uneven hierarchy of the university structure goes back to the late 18th century. In a similar fashion, based on the dynamics of the 20th century universities, Pierre Bourdieu showed how the political leanings of scholars correspond to their positions in the academic field, and a subordinated position in the academic field creates a tendency for a left-leaning political stance (Bourdieu 1988). Indeed, the incontestable weight of social scientists and humanists among the signatory academics may be considered in the wake of Bourdieusian social space theory. Karl Spracklen, who published a stimulating book on the threats that social sciences have faced, states that “the lack of confidence in the social sciences predicting the future is the reason why its findings are not useful to the instrumental logic of capitalism or government bureaucracies” (Spracklen 2015: 27). Based on the discourse of the uselessness of social sciences and humanities, social sciences and humanities scholars, who are subordinated to this symbolic violence, tend to defend, generally in vain, their disciplines’ benefits to economic and social development and become party to “academic capitalism” and “publish or perish” culture in order to survive. It is not a coincidence that “engaged scholarship” emerged and blossomed in the late 1990s all around the world, especially following the publication of Ernest Boyer’s The Scholarship of Engagement in 1996 (see Kajner 2013: 10). When he published this groundbreaking work, neoliberal governments had already reshaped their higher education policies based on a perspective that sees universities “as vital sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking, as providers of skilled personnel and credible credentials, as contributors to innovation, as attractors of international talent and business investment into a region” (Boulton; Lucas 2011: 2508). Embracing not only ideological but also economic functions attached to it, more universities have moved from the periphery to the center of neoliberal government agendas. In return, the scholars in the social sciences and humanities became more marginalized and powerless in the neoliberal university structure, while at the same time they became more “critical and transformative engaged scholarship reach[ed] far beyond the walls of academia” (Kajner 2013: 16).

34In the case of the AfP, this trend is more noticeable especially among the early career or PhD candidate signatories in the social sciences and humanities. As they entered the profession in the 2010s, these higher education institutions had already been marginalized and depreciated by the neoliberalization process. Statistics about the purged signatory academics also confirm it. On September, 12, 2016, when dismissals from private foundation universities already had statistical importance, academics with non-tenured teaching positions, such as assistant professors, lecturers, and experts, had a ratio of 53%, whereas those who dismissed from tenured positions (professors and associate professors) comprised of only 26 % in the whole purged group (see Figure 7). In their pioneering work, Aslı Vatansever and Serpil Gezici Yalçın (2015) highlight the over-representation of assistant professors in private foundation universities. Those institutions operate as “academic sweatshops” (Sharff; Lessinger 1994) dependent on the labor of assistant professors. They are simultaneously more competent to teach than PhD candidate teaching assistants and “cheaper” to employ than senior scholars. Indeed, according to statistics provided by the Higher Education Council, in 2016, when the purge started, the proportion of assistant professors, lecturers and experts within all private foundation universities’ academic staff was 61.26%, while the tenured positions represented only 25.6%. However, when public universities were added to the purge wave with the declaration of emergency rule, the research and teaching assistants substituted for assistant professors and, at a ratio of 39%, became the main victims of the purge (see Figure 8), approximately 80% of them specialized in social sciences and humanities (see Figure 9). Again, when we look at statistics of 2016 provided by the Higher Education Council, we see that in public universities the ratio of non-tenured teaching academics within all academic staff decreased from 61,26% to 35.85%, while the research and teaching assistants’ proportion rose to 33.34%. In other words, public and private universities are distinguishing from each other by their recruitment strategies, and consequently by their purge strategies. However, the two main target groups of the purge (novice PhD holders in private universities, and PhD candidates in public universities) are drawn together by two elements: being specialized in social sciences and humanities, and being in the early phase of their academic career.

35To conclude, the data presented here proves that there are discernable differences between the profiles of the right-leaning (mainly allegedly Gülenist) and left-leaning (mainly AfP signatory) purged academics. First of all, while the purge of right-leaning conservative academics happened predominantly in provincial “backwater” public universities, their left-leaning counterparts faced the purge mostly in metropolitan interest-oriented private foundation universities, and in certain metropolitan public universities, such as Ankara University, Yıldız Teknik University, or Marmara University, whose administrations, especially presidents, were in tune with the political power’s agenda.

Figure 7: Distribution of the dismissed AfP according to their titles by September 12, 2016.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

Figure 8: Distribution of AfP academics expelled with executive decrees according to their titles.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

Figure 9: Distribution of the research assistants expelled with executive decrees according to their disciplines.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

36The second distinction between the two categories pertains to their scientific disciplines: while the purged right-leaning conservative scholars were more often from STEM (sciences, technologies, engineering, mathematics) disciplines, which are closer to power positions in the academic field, the great majority of signatory academics specialized in the arts, humanities, or social sciences. Furthermore, the latter group mostly comprised younger scholars who had newly entered the academic profession in a time when the academic field was shrinking and more precarious than ever before, especially the humanities and social sciences. In short, being a social scientist, artist, or humanist, having entered the profession in the last decade, possessing a critical and epistemologically constructivist point of view, and being an engaged scholar are frequent common denominators of the purged AfP group.

37Additionally, women do constitute a majority (54%) among the signatories and represent 50.5% of all purged signatory academics and are without dispute a more engaged group within the AfP. It is well known that the feminization of professions – in our case, the social science and humanities disciplines – is always connected to how these professions are increasingly excluded from power positions and subsequently abandoned by men. Especially since the 2007–2008 global financial crisis, the “shecession”–not only in the sense of job losses but also regarding the patterns of job devaluation– along with a patriarchal conservative drift around the world has transformed women and feminized professional communities into dissidents. Composed mainly of scholars from devaluated social sciences and humanities, the AfP case is not exempt from this fact.

  • 15 Seniority, gender, social network capacity, foreign language knowledge, healthiness, wealth, etc. h (...)

38However, these frequent common denominators do not mean that signatory academics constituted a unified, non-stratified homogeneous community beyond class-, race-, and gender-based disparities. On the contrary, inequalities among the signatories immediately came to surface and eventually led to the aggravation of injustices. During and after the purge, these injustices have affected both those who stayed in Turkey under conditions of civic death and those who moved abroad to live in exile15.

39Drawing from the perspective of the initiators and participants in three academic solidarity organizations based in France, the US, and Germany, the exile experiences of the purged scholars will be the indirect subject of the next section. The reason for focusing on international solidarity organizations instead of exiled academics per se is to unravel the brutal structure of neoliberalized global academia, instead of framing it as a narrative of “victimhood”.

Academic Exile, or Migration from the Body of the Centaur to Its Head

40The consecutive and continuous dismissals of signatory academics following the release of the petition, even before the July 15 “coup within a coup” incident, necessitated efforts of finding a new job. The first dismissed academics were mostly working at private foundation universities, and this group was more acquainted with the precariousness of neoliberal academic work than those who were employed by public universities. In a short time, however, they were faced with the reality that they and their job applications had been blacklisted. Therefore, their searches shifted abroad and many scholars, including myself, for the first time, discovered the widespread existence of international organizations and networks with the aim of supporting academics under threat.

41But, in fact, neither academic exile nor academic rescue organizations are new phenomena. The first massive academic purge in the modern history took place just after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, and the Civil Service Law enacted in April 1933 that requires the Jews and “politically unreliable” scholars to leave their positions at German universities. As Simon Lässig points out, between “1933 and 1941 roughly 2,000 academics who had lost their positions and had been at risk in Germany and its annexed territories were able to emigrate and secure livelihoods in their new countries of residence. They headed to France, Turkey, Palestine, and, above all, the United States and Britain” (Lässig 2017: 774). Given the fact that the post-war expansion of higher education had not yet started, the number of exiled academics from Germany during the interwar period was enormous. As the academic crackdown escalated in Germany, two separate initiatives were inaugurated in May 1933: The Academic Assistance Council (AAC) in the U.K., and The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars in the U.S. Unfortunately, first, the after effects of the Great Depression and later the WWII had widely stood in the way of these ventures. Attenuation of the academic job market in their settlement countries allowed a minority of exiled scholars to find tenure track faculty positions. For example, as Laurel Leff indicated, The Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars received more than 6,000 appeals from European countries and ended up only placing 335 scholars (Leff 2019). Leff also underlines in her book Well Worth Saving the fact that the literature on the intellectual migration of the 1930s and 1940s has generally tended to concentrate on stories of those who succeeded, and thus become a “literature of celebration” with strong emphasis on the triumph of the U.S. –and the West in a broader sense– and the bereavement of Germany. But in reality, the majority of purged scholars’ applications to Western universities had been rejected. Only a minority of academics had the opportunity to be rescued from persecution and a few had to continue their academic careers in their settlement countries.

42Returning to the AfP case and the exile experiences of signatory academics, at first sight, the situation might be considered as less somber. First of all, today, the number of humanitarian rescue organizations as well as that of universities all around the world is remarkably higher than 80 years ago. The most crucial difference here, however, lies in the fact that the risk they have faced and endured was not that of physical death. When they decided to leave Turkey, they were running away from a slight possibility of imprisonment, whereas the risk of being condemned to “civic death” was posing a greater threat. We will examine the consequences of this risk of civic death in relation with the current “conflict of the faculties” thereinafter. First, let’s look closely at the situation of numerous humanitarian rescue organizations that were already well established when the purge of AfP started in 2016.

43Humanitarian aid organizations have developed rapidly in these last three decades in parallel with neoliberal globalization and the rise of necropolitics, in such a way that they constitute a field, where the law of the market works (Carbonnier 2015; Haskaj 2018; Weiss 2013). Tom Weiss stresses three transformative trends of humanitarian activities following the post-Cold War period as militarization, politicization, and marketization (Weiss 2013: 54). In an earlier work, MacFarlane and Weiss had pointed out how, in many cases, the states’ political interests intersect with the humanitarian motivations (MacFarlane; Weiss 2000). Thus, one can claim that in the humanitarian assistance field, political interests, profit-seeking motives are, as Viviana Zelizer conceptualizes in her analysis of interactions between monetary transactions and intimate relationships (2005), intermingled in some cases with solidarity values, and in some others with philanthropic efforts. Perhaps one of the most concrete examples of the political embeddedness of humanitarian actions is Turkey’s humanitarian practice in the academic field. On the one hand, thousands of persecuted academics left Turkey to find shelter and jobs abroad, and this brutality led to worldwide criticism of the Turkish government’s violation of academic freedom and freedom of expression. On the other hand, same government sought to gain worldwide appreciation through hosting and employing hundreds of exiled Syrian academics in the universities of Turkey (Solmaz 2019). Not to mention, Turkey’s diplomatically and militarily proactive involvement in the Syrian civil war since its outbreak in 2011 that had triggered a humanitarian crisis and the Syrian mass migration, including that of Syrian scholars.

44The principal organizations and networks involved in the migration of academics from Turkey were founded at the turn of the 21st century and multiplied in the post-9/11 and post-Arab Spring warfare eras together with the worldwide authoritarian drifts of the last decade: the US-based Scholars at Risk (SAR), founded in 1999; the UK-based Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in 1999; the US-based Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) in 2002; the Germany-based Philipp Schwartz Initiative Fellowships in 2016; and the France-based PAUSE Program in 2017. While the private donators constitute the main source of funding for the first three of these organizations based in the US and the UK, in other initiatives established in continental Europe, the states have also become involved. Some organizations have institutional pasts going back to the first half of the 20th century, such as CARA and the Scholar Rescue Fund respectively under the names of the Academic Assistance Council (AAC) and Institute of International Education ( Sertdemir-Özdemir et al. 2019: 7–10). These organizations have been joined by new or renewed foundations associated with leftist political parties, such as the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Germany. Moreover, new networks and formations also came into existence led by scholars with a rather “amateur spirit” and intentions of demonstrating solidarity with at-risk academics, such as Academy in Exile in Germany in 2017, Off-University in Germany in 2018, the New University in Exile Consortium in the US in 2018, and Université Libre de Bruxelles’s Solidarity Fund in Belgium in 2019. Thus, we are considering a field, which is highly prone to political and economic influences due to its funding structure, but also, in comparison to other fields of humanitarian aid, this field has a unique character grounded upon the relatively autonomous structure of academia in Western countries.

45I have had many experiences with the above-mentioned initiatives that let me observe them closely. As a French-speaking signatory academic who was not purged, I had the opportunity to witness the founding process of PAUSE in late 2016. After being subjected to a trial in court on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” in the fall of 2017, I applied for a visiting research scholar position at the New School in the US that was offered by the New University in Exile Consortium and for which an application to the Scholar Rescue Fund was a prerequisite. During my stay in the US in the 2018-2019 academic year, I moderated an online seminar at Off-University together with a persecuted jobless colleague living in Turkey, who is also an old friend. In order to evaluate how these initiatives, whose target population are mostly scholars of the social sciences and humanities, were affected by the globally hegemonic neoliberal reasoning, alongside my personal observations, interviews with two colleagues from France on the real outputs of the PAUSE Program, the initiator of The New University in Exile Consortium Arien Mack, the author of “A Light in Dark Times - The New School for Social Research and Its University in Exile” Judith Friedlander, and, finally, Julia Strutz, an AfP signatory human geographer resided in Berlin and one of the initiators of Off-University, will be examined below, The idea that resistance against authoritarianism should not be separated from resistance against neoliberalism will also be discussed.

As Befits the Name: PAUSE

46The first dismissed group of signatory academics at private foundation universities largely comprised of junior PhDs, including those who had obtained their graduate degrees abroad. Such scholars usually had more opportunities to immediately find host institutions in the Euro-Atlantic countries for visiting fellowship positions; their academic and professional backgrounds allowed them to be selected more easily than signatories with no experience abroad. At the beginning, this imbalanced situation, which is a reverberation of the basic logic of reproduction of inequality, did not pose a serious problem since everyone was under the impression that the purge and repression of academics would end soon. As outlined above, however, the course of events was contrary to initial expectations and the situation quickly went from bad to worse. The number of dismissed signatory research and teaching assistants among all dismissed academics showed a stable increase. Mostly as graduate students in Turkey’s universities, they were not even eligible to apply for international opportunities for at-risk scholars. Such programs had been initially designed for threatened senior academics; threatened PhD students were excluded. As soon as this incompatibility was recognized, many signatory academics working abroad or in relatively sheltering universities in Turkey put together their efforts to support the search for visiting positions by signatories that are relatively deprived of international connections, in addition to initiate the creation of internationally funded fellowships, in order to support all purged signatory academics who could not, or did not want to, go abroad.

47In this context, first Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers’ Union) replied affirmatively to the proposition of signatory academics to create a financial support network for its persecuted and fired members. Secondly, the Social Research Foundation (SAV) established a fund for signatory academics, who had lost their jobs while working in private foundation universities, hence were not members of Eğitim-Sen. In the same direction, a French-speaking group of signatory academics, including myself, circulated a call within the Comité International de Solidarité avec les Universitaires pour la Paix (CISUP) network to fundraise for a project that “aims to support the scientific research carried out at masters, doctoral and post-doctoral level by the academics who are deprived of the opportunity to conduct their researches as a result of the restriction of academic freedom by political pressure.” At the time, owing to the “full-court press” of the AfP international working group’s volunteers, public opinion was molded in favor of the signatory academics. However, unlike the US-based crowdfunding campaign that was successfully conducted nearly one year later (see RIT - Research Institute on Turkey, 2017), the proposal could not further progress in France due to the lack of a legal-institutional sponsor to run the campaign.

48Another factor that worsened the situation was the confiscation of the passports of academics, who were dismissed by executive decrees during the emergency rule. Nevertheless, this at least created awareness in the France-based solidarity circles about the profile and the needs of persecuted young social science and humanities scholars. The PAUSE Program was announced in October 2016 and formally established in January 2017 by an agreement between the Ministry for Education and Research, Collège de France, and the Chancellery of Parisian Universities. With concrete contributions and advice from some members of the French-based solidarity group with the AfP, the program extended its support to threatened graduate students. Between 2017 and 2019, 33% of 201 threatened scholars, who benefited from the PAUSE Program, were PhD students (see Program PAUSE - Collège de France, 2020).

  • 16 Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira coined the term “imperial university” as a corollary of imperial (...)

49Following the organizational model of the Scholar Rescue Fund (i.e. undertaking a part of the salaries to be paid to endangered visiting scholars by the host institutes) and the Philipp Schwartz Initiative of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as a funding model (based mainly on public funding), the PAUSE Program started to support French universities and laboratories willing to host scholars in exile. No one can deny the fact that one of the French government’s priorities was to catch up with other “imperial”16 countries already having their own humanitarian programs to support exiled scholars. However, it is simultaneously clear that all of these programs provided significant support to the persecuted and exiled academics in their search of livelihood, security, and temporary academic positions. They also provided an opportunity to collectively raise their voices in order to bring their cause, or their case, into the attention of the international public.

50The inauguration of the PAUSE Program in the beginning of 2017 corresponded to the worst period of the purge of the AfP in Turkey; 299 of 415 dismissals with decree laws took place in the first three months of 2017 (see Figure 10). This triggered massive applications to visiting scholar positions abroad, which raises the question of guidelines and selection criteria in determining the best candidates for temporary positions: is it the academic excellence, the level of risk, or affirmative action?

Figure 10: Numbers of expelled signatory academics by executive decrees.

(Source: AfP Solidarity Database)

51This question preoccupied not only the selection committees of host institutions but also the persecuted AfP community, in which preexisting inequalities of class, gender, race, age, seniority, and so on among the signatories surfaced in a more resounding way during the repression period. In that context, a risk assessment questionnaire was proposed by a group of signatories, according to which priority was given to dismissed academics over those who still had their jobs, to those who had already faced trial over those who have not, to graduate students over senior academics, to scholars without international networks over those who had them, to women over men, to people with children over those without familial obligations, and so on. Leaving “excellence” aside, these criteria aimed to ward off the effects of academic capitalism while dealing with academic repression.

52Unlike the German case, in France a considerable number of academic institutions, including the PAUSE Program’s selection committee, took into account the risk reports provided by a volunteer group composed of signatories from France, Germany, and Turkey. Unsurprisingly, some signatories with connections in France bypassed this volunteer-based questionnaire procedure run, as some French academic institutions prioritized the criterion of “excellence” or acquaintanceship rather than risk assessment. However, in the framework of the PAUSE Program, many French universities selected numerous signatory academics assessed as “top priority” by the questionnaire. Based on this assessment, among the ‘top priority’ academics, those who kept their passports or found an informal way to leave Turkey could continue their academic work, at least hypothetically, in France.

Between Hosting a Colleague and Helping a Victim

53As one of the volunteer signatory academics, who collaborated in the preparation of the abovementioned risk reports, I had opportunity to closely observe the evolution of the PAUSE program. In the first two years, approximately 60% of the laureates of this program were from Turkey (“PAUSE a aidé 98 chercheurs en exil” 2018: 39) and a great majority of them were persecuted signatories. In 2020, the total number of academics hosted by French institutions through the program increased to 222. However, to my knowledge, during this period there is no Pause laureate from Turkey, who has been recruited in a tenured position at any French academic institution. Alongside of my own observations, in order to have preliminary ideas about the reasons of non-integration of exiled scholars to the French academia, exploratory interviews with two academics from France, who have been engaged in hosting exiled scholars from Turkey, will be utilized.

54Both interviewees are women from the social sciences and do have ties in Turkey. One of them is a professor and an executive (Interviewee 1); in other words, relatively influential in her institution. The second is a research fellow with a tenured appointment (Interviewee 2). Neither of them were initiators of the PAUSE Program, but they have had many experiences of hosting endangered and exiled scholars in their own institutions since 2016.

55The second interviewee, who is also one of the signatories of the peace petition, have joined academic freedom and solidarity activities in Turkey right after the release of the petition, or a year before the PAUSE Program was launched:

Threatened scholars came to our university at first through the French Consulate’s Short-term Visiting Scholar fellowship announced in March 2016. At the time, approximately 15 signatory academics applied to this fellowship through our research center. Two of them were awarded and came to our university for two months (Interviewee 2).

  • 17 The petition, first announced to the public with 1,128 signatories on January 11, was submitted to (...)

56At the beginning, the political repression of signatory academics in Turkey was considered temporary and almost no one expected it to evolve into a massive purge. Though a significant number of colleagues from different universities around the world showed their solidarity by allocating short-term visiting positions in their institutions to persecuted signatory academics. Approximately one-third of signatories, be it lecturers, researchers, or graduate students, were from universities abroad. This group, being relatively beyond the range of the Turkish government’s repression, played a key role in organizing such solidarity movements17. International academia was also very sensitive to the situation, especially social scientists and humanists, and reacted immediately (HRFT Academy 2019: 11–12). Interviewee 2’s efforts to raise awareness in her institution about the AfP case might be considered as an example of this situation:

The support of my colleagues for these programs was 100%. We held a demonstration to show our solidarity with peace academics and everyone came. The point of view of the people was very positive and, truly speaking, they saw me at the time as a reference person. When I talked to them about a scholar in a difficult position and proposed inviting him or her, they were accepting (Interviewee 2).

57The positive attitude of the faculty for hosting threatened scholars was equally highlighted by Interviewee 1:

The city where my university is located has a socialist tradition and the proportion of left-leaning engaged scholars has been always high. Before the PAUSE Program, we had already launched a Refugee Student Program, with which we had enrolled a lot of students from refugee camps after conducting interviews with them. In such an environment, almost all faculties supported the PAUSE Program (Interviewee 1).

58However, having favorable feelings for someone or something in advance does not always guarantee a fertile relationship between the interested parties, especially when uneven positions like “host” and “exiled” or “assister” and “assisted” are deepened by sociocultural inequalities. As Nil Mutluer (2017) and Aslı Vatansever (2018) separately highlighted, the majority of “host” scholars are inclined to see exiled scholars as “victims” and/or “guests,” which makes a relationship between peers impossible. According to Interviewee 2, such a point of view stems from the fact that there is a “shade of romanticism” about Turkey among some French scholars:

I met two French professors at the university while I was accompanying an exiled scholar for her enrolment procedures. One of them even talked to us about Yaşar Kemal. They had a romantic imaginary of Turkey and of repression in Turkey. According to them, all people living in Turkey are naturally subject to repression and persecution. It seems to me that they aren’t aware of some realities. They can’t see the relativity (Interviewee 2).

59Indeed, such a binary imaginary is based on the neglect of all relational positions and their internal conflicts and contradictions. Even though a considerable number of the exiled signatories struggled to deconstruct this simultaneously unreal and victimizing imaginary during their exile experiences, as the testimonials of Interviewee 2 indicates, there were also signatories who preferred to benefit from it at risk of reproducing this imaginary:

I had received an email from a signatory academic who wanted to apply to the PAUSE Program. She was living in a Western non-European country and sent me a very exciting research project widely intersecting with my interest areas. Her residence permit was about to expire in that country and she requested my support, the support of the laboratory to which I am attached, for her application. I readily supported her application and even though her application to the PAUSE Program was rejected, I convinced my institution to open a post-doc fellowship for her. Consequently, she got this fellowship and spent two years in our laboratory. She was always welcomed to the regular meetings of the laboratory and every colleague on my team invited her at least one time to his or her home for dinner. But she preferred to act on her own behalf. She was generally absent from team meetings and laboratory activities. And we learned that she submitted many applications for academic positions and fellowships during her stay without giving us any information. For example, as a jury member I was given her application file for a researcher position at CNRS. […] Among my experiences with threatened scholars, her case was quite different. She got her PhD in a Western non-European country, and she hadn’t been in Turkey for 10 years and thus her application to the PAUSE Program was rejected. You know, there is a selection criterion in the PAUSE Program to be in the country where the candidate is at risk in the last 3 years. She was not in such a situation and she was not expelled from her position. I think she was profiting of this to find a position in the academic field in the easiest way (Interviewee 2).

  • 18 It is known that not many universities in Turkey recruit signatory academics and will only do so if (...)

60As is seen in this case, the victimization of signatories among certain host academics apparently render a strategy of using this victimization process for one’s own benefit possible. This binary representation of host-and-guest and victim-and-savior relationships is, of course, somewhat reductionist; the depiction of this relationship by Interviewee 2 includes certain personal disappointment. A calculative mindset and surrounding actions have not contradicted with academic capitalism for a long time. In an increasingly shrinking job market (particularly in the social sciences and humanities), a scholar well integrated into academic capitalism might evaluate the behavior described by Interviewee 2 as a rational strategy of a signatory academic for survival in this excessively competitive environment, as such a person will have few if any chances to find a position in academia in Turkey18.

61This kind of survival strategy, however, should not be pursued in a stealthy way, as in the case of the signatory described by Interviewee 2. Interviewee 1 also witnessed the pursuit of similar strategies by threatened scholars. However, perhaps because of her stance being more realist or her expectations of hosted scholars being more moderate, she conceives it as a pragmatic fact that negatively affects scientific production:

[These exiled] scholars who are good in a foreign language and familiar with French or international scientific culture must always think about the next step. They, in turn, can’t produce today, because of focusing on new applications to academic positions and/or fellowships to follow the current precarious one. Worrying about tomorrow prevents them from producing sufficiently today (Interviewee 1).

  • 19 This situation is qualified by Aslı Vatansever as “a nomadic mode of living” (Vatansever 2018) amon (...)

62In most cases, the “guests” cannot be sufficiently integrated into their host institutions’ scientific activities because of the well-known ephemerality of their current positions.19 Obviously, a savior/victim relationship might lead to the reproduction of victimhood within the context of opportunities designed only for scholars at risk, and because their main requirement of admission is to be a victim and/or to convince the jury of victimhood, these programs served for that purpose. This reproduction process continues during their stays:

[…] the faculty usually approached the idea of hosting exiled scholars in their institution from an ideological point of view. Perhaps this is a big mistake. When you approach the case in this way, you don’t consider the person you have employed as your peer. This seems to me rather a humanitarian and a solidarity behavior (Interviewee 1).

63The only way out of this swirl of victimhood seems to be employment by an academic institution through the signing of a standard labor contract. In this context, a case mentioned by Interviewee 1 is significant:

For example, we applied to the PAUSE Program for an expelled and persecuted colleague from Turkey, but due to citizenship status our application was rejected. In fact, he was a person really in need, and so we tried every way to ensure that he got a lecturer position with a renewable contract. Since then, this colleague has taught at our university and I can say he became completely integrated into the institution, because he was employed with ‘normal’ employee status. However, this is not the case for other scholars hosted through the PAUSE Program (Interviewee 1).

64Later in the interview, she explained that this social scientist received his PhD in France, and even though he is more integrated into French academia, he may earn quite less than a PAUSE fellow. However, even with his insufficient income, his employment status still provides him the liberty of not pursuing subsequent fellowships and not becoming an “academic nomad.”

  • 20 According to Robert Castel, the integration of individuals in a society depends on their positions (...)

65Drawing from Robert Castel’s works on disaffiliation (Castel, 2003, 2016)20, one can say that employment under a precarious academic labor contract, does not fully involve him or her in the zone of integration. Nevertheless, being part of a faculty community no doubt provides better prospects of tenure track position. But for the majority of exiled scholars this is not the case. Their fellowship salaries designed for “victim academics” puts them temporarily into the zone of assistance, and after the fellowship expiration date, at the doorstep of the zone of disaffiliation.

66Apart from PAUSE fellows who are currently teaching or taking part in joint research projects in France, the majority of exiled signatory scholars are, according to the interviewees, far from being integrated into the academic field:

PAUSE fellow PhD students tried to complete their graduate program. Their working order is different. But when PhD holder PAUSE fellow scholars are at stake, I can say that if one is not very ambitious, integration is almost impossible. Rather than working with us as workmates, they are usually stuck in a category of people to whom we are providing humanitarian support (Interviewee 1).

67One obstacle before this group is language and another is their scientific discipline. French is not a foreign language widely learned in Turkey and, when an exiled scholar arrives in France through the PAUSE Program without sufficient French knowledge, in most cases he or she cannot attend the scientific activities held at his or her host institution. As for PhD students, if they are not enrolled in an Anglophone department, they have to spend the first couple of years of their fellowship learning French. All the same, PhD students are relatively more motivated to learn French in order to successfully complete their graduate studies. For an exiled non-Francophone senior scholar or PhD holder, the situation is much glummer, particularly if this person is specialized in the social sciences or humanities. If a social scientist or humanist does not have a graduate degree from France or another Western country and is not fluent in at least one foreign language, he or she has very little, if any, chance to continue his or her academic career abroad. Indeed, as most of the young holders of French PhDs among social scientists and humanists have struggled over the years to find tenure track positions in the increasingly shrinking academic “job market,” there are obviously very few if any factors to generate motivation for them in the given situation.

68Our interviewees clearly did not fit the “humanitarian but indifferent “host” scholar profile and they tried to help exiled signatories integrate into the academic environment during their stays. However, this still seemingly caused an uneven assister/assisted relationship and related complications. Their attempts to guide visiting scholars have, in fact, been rejected in most cases:

We hosted a lot of exiled scholars, not only from Turkey, but also from Syria, from Yemen, and from various war territories. Among them, only those who had a graduate degree from France in the past could be integrated into French academia, because those people can be included into the network. But for the rest, our attempts give no results. For example, we have weekly research seminars that I’m running in our laboratory. Nobody among them came, including those from my discipline. I mean, a small number of exiled scholars may be involved in scientific activities, but the majority has no ambition to be integrated (Interviewee 1).

69The interviewees explain this reluctance of exiled scholars with either cultural factors or psychological ones:

It creates a cultural shock for those who have been abroad for the first time. They were like fish out of water. They got into a panic. Normally, they frequently applied to us to ask for support, especially about red tape. However, I noticed that when we gave some long-term advice to them, beyond their primary concerns, it backfired. They were perceiving our advice as criticism and they showed an attitude of ‘who the hell are you to counsel me’ (Interviewee 2).

70Such resistance by exiled scholars is particularly revealed when professional and academic issues come into question. The “assister” scholars apparently try to give them advices about the functioning of academic life in French universities and the modus operandi for surviving there, but these attempts generally come to nothing. The other interviewee interpreted the disengagement of exiled scholars in light of their trauma brought from Turkey:

I attribute this attitude to the trauma they experienced in their countries and their alienation from academia. […] I think this is the main question: ‘why did all of this happen to us and we got into this situation?’ I observe that the impacts of this trauma are bigger for those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These people were probably alone in terms of academic achievement in their families, and even further, they became professors. And after the purge, they lost everything. The suffering of this category is harder (Interviewee 1).

71But such observations do not take into account the probability that the disengagement of exiled scholars might be related to their unwillingness to be part of academic capitalism, in which, apparently, they have very few chances to succeed. Indeed, in spite of the steps made by AKP governments towards neoliberalization of universities over the last two decades in Turkey, it was always possible to find certain niches free of academic capitalism, which historically have come to be irritating splinters for both authoritarian and neoliberal executives of higher education, and most of the signatory academics were expelled from those niches.

72While the PAUSE Program’s mission has been determined, at least on paper, to expedite “the hosting of scientists from crisis zones for sufficiently long periods to enable them to integrate and to ensure continuity in their research,” only a small minority of exiled scholars have been capable of moving in this direction. Consequently, according to the interviewees, the outcome of this program is “a total washout.” (Interviewee I) Some of those who cannot or do not want to return to Turkey are busy seeking ways of staying in France, or another Western country, even outside of academia:

They are apparently staying here for two years just to pass the time and learn French. After that, instead of returning back to academia, some of them are saying they would prefer becoming a driving teacher or opening a restaurant (Interviewee 1).

73Some others see the PAUSE Program as an opportunity to catch their breath, away from where they have been persecuted:

I observe that most of the signatories who come to Western countries via PAUSE-like programs have no conclusive goal of settling there. They are never burning their bridges with Turkey. I think that their priority is always to wait for the persecution process to be over and then return (Interviewee 2).

74The scarcity of stable long-term positions that could ensure integration in Western academia, especially for social science and humanities scholars, increases the inclination to return home, especially for exiled academics from Turkey, whose conditions are different compared to the conditions of war zones or those who fled from Nazism nearly 90 years ago. Today’s exiled academics from Turkey have fled the risk of “civic death” rather than physical death or incarceration; this particular risk aims to confine them in the zone of disaffiliation, namely in a condition of being excluded from both work and socialization in their country. As a discontinuous state of being disconnected from “their roots, their land, their past” (Said 2013: 140) and, more importantly, from their “social ties” (Arendt 1994:116), the exile condition, which is growing harder for social scientists and humanists in neoliberal times due to the recession of the job market as well as average salaries, does not guarantee an escape from the zone of disaffiliation in the country of settlement. It always keeps open the possibility of turning back if there is no risk of physical persecution in the country of origin. For governments, the tendency of exiled social science and humanities scholars to return their countries of origin does not apparently represent a failure. Moreover, despite the very low rates in exiled scholars’ academic integration at the end of their stay, taking into account the political benefits of such humanitarian programs, their outcomes might be counted in the success ratio of countries with an “imperial university” perspective.

The “New” University in Exile under Academic Capitalism

75The New University in Exile Consortium (NUIEC) was launched in September 2018 in New York City by the New School, which organized, convened, and provided the administrative base for the initiative. At the outset, the Consortium was a group of 10 US universities and colleges and has since expanded to a group of 23 higher education institutions in the US, Germany, Jordan and South Africa. Those familiar with the history of the New School will remember how the institution’s first president Alvin Johnson opened the first University in Exile in 1933. An economist and journalist, Johnson was one of the founders of the New School in 1919. Later, when Hitler rose to power, he persuaded the institution’s trustees to let him provide a safe-haven for refugee scholars fleeing Nazi Germany by creating a graduate school of social sciences. Below we will compare the “original” and “new” experiences of the University in Exile, taking into account the historical contexts from within they emerged. First, however, it will be useful to look broadly at the differences between the NUIEC and other existing programs designed to assist threatened scholars, including the PAUSE Program in France.

76The scholar rescue organizations that have been working since the late 1990s prioritize finding host institutions for such scholars; some of them also make partial contributions to the host institutions’ budget for those scholars. On the other hand, the NUIEC prioritizes socially, intellectually, and financially supporting scholars, over the course of their stay. In other words, while programs such as Scholars at Risk, the Scholar Rescue Fund, CARA, and PAUSE focus mainly on facilitating the “rescue” process for threatened scholars, the NUIEC’s aim is to reduce difficulties these scholars face during their exile. In light of Robert Castel’s aforementioned work, this approach appears to be oriented towards minimizing the risk of falling into the zone of disaffiliation for exiled scholars in their countries of settlement.

77The source of much of the information that I rely on here is based on an interview with the Albert and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology Arien Mack at The New School for Social Research. Arien Mack has been a member of the graduate faculty since 1966 and has served as the editor of Social Research since 1970, a social sciences journal that first appeared in 1934, mainly with contributions from the faculty of the University in Exile. Mack elaborated substantially on the project of renewing the University in Exile in the face of burgeoning new authoritarianism of the 21st century:

I created the Journal Donation Project in 1990 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its initial aim was to provide free largely social science journal subscriptions to university libraires in the former Soviet Union countries which, because of censorship, for the past 45 years. had not be able to obtain them. As it expanded the project provided hundreds of subscriptions to academic journals, first in the former Soviet Union countries and in Central European ones, like Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. And then we gradually extended the project to Central Asia, to, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan and even to Turkmenistan and to sub-Saharan Africa, primarily to Ghana and Nigeria. It became a hugely effective library assistance program.

78The impetus to start the New University in Exile was the imprisonment of Arien Mack’s friend and colleague Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planner who was twice imprisoned in Tehran, Iran. Mack launched a campaign to free him in 2009 (“Free Kian ’09 - Campaign to Release Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh from detention” 2009). It was this experience, which led her to believe that the New School, a historical safe harbor for endangered scholars, needed to be revisited:

I wanted to do something durable and then I met the chairman of the Board of Scholar Rescue Fund which in 2009 led me to raise the money to bring an endangered scholar to the New School every year. The first scholar was an Ethiopian activist and economist. We hosted scholars for 8 years and I became convinced that we needed to do more which was the origin of the Consortium. I convened a series of meeting, with my colleagues, Professors Elzbieta Matynia and Richard Bernstein and others outside the New School who worked with endangered scholars to talk about how we could create a New University in Exile. I firmly believed the New School and in fact all universities committed to academic freedom and human rights were morally obligated to protect threatened scholars. (interview with Arien Mack).

79However, first attempts of Arien Mack to resurrect the legacy of the University in Exile had not become a high priority at the New School. After David E. Van Zandt became president in 2010, the university launched a major “rebranding” campaign that stressed the “new” in the New School’s name. As Judith Friedlander notes in A Light in Dark Times, by 2018, the New School now billed itself as a school of design with a social purpose, shifting the focus of the institution away from its historic place among institutions of higher learning as a champion of academic freedom and human rights, and towards the prominent role Parsons School of Design had been playing for decades as the financial mainstay of the university (Friedlander 2019: 350).

80Arien Mack’s new initiative may not have advanced Van Zandt’s dream of making the New School more competitive in the global academic market, but it did attract the enthusiastic attention of many in the wider intellectual community:

In 2016 when the UN organized a large program on the refugee crisis, the President of Columbia University at the suggestion of the then Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, organized a public meeting about helping endangered academics to which I was invited. It was around the time of that meeting, encouraged by the President of Columbia who was very supportive of the idea, that I decided to move ahead with trying to create a New University in Exile Consortium. I did this by writing to presidents of US universities inviting them to join us in working to form a community for hosted exiled, endangered scholars Columbia was one of the first universities to join followed by Yale, Brown, and Georgetown and others (interview with Arien Mack).

81The fact that Columbia University stepped forward right away to endorse Mack’s idea adds a lovely note of irony. Although individual members of this leading academic institution had previously welcomed the newly arrived refugee scholars to the original University in Exile in 1933, Columbia has a long and complicated institutional history with the New School for Social Research that dates back to the New School’s origins, in the days following the end of World War I.

82The New School was founded in 1919 as an act of protest against the leadership of Columbia University by a group of progressive intellectuals. Charles A. Beard and James Harvey Robinson, distinguished members of Columbia’s faculty, had resigned from the university nearly two years before, after the trustees fired two pacifist professors for defying Columbia’s president, Nicholas Murray Butler, who had warned that there would be no tolerance for anyone on the faculty or student body that persisted in campaigning against taking up arms once the United States had entered the Great War.

83Neither Beard, nor Robinson was a pacifist. On the contrary, they strongly supported America’s decision to join the war, but they fiercely defended academic freedom and therefore their colleagues’ right to voice their opinions. Beard and Robinson proudly walked away from New York’s most renowned academic institution and, together with other leading intellectuals of the day, set out to establish a liberal and progressive academic institution. They called their new educational venture the New School for Social Research (Friedlander 2019: 3-4).

84As noted above, Alvin Johnson was among the founders of the New School for Social Research. By 1922, Beard, Robinson, and many other major figures on the faculty had given up on the project, leaving the fate of the institution in Johnson’s hands. Within a couple of years, Johnson had turned the New School into the nation’s preeminent school of continuing education for adult students, most of whom had college degrees. As Johnson liked to put it, the New School offered a program for “the continuing education of the educated.” After his School of Continuing Education began to take off, he dreamed of creating a more serious research program in the social sciences, but the New School could not afford it. Then, in 1933, Hitler rose to power and an extraordinary group of scholars were ousted from their universities in Germany. Not only were these professors desperately looking for work but also, perhaps more importantly, they wanted to leave Germany as soon as possible. In that context, Johnson could open the University in Exile, eventually providing a safe haven for nearly 200 refugee scholars, artists, intellectuals, and their families within the New School.

85From the very beginning, IIE and Rockefeller Foundation tried to persuade Johnson to disband the University in Exile and pool the funds he was raising with theirs, but to no avail:

They didn’t want Johnson competing with them by creating a University in Exile. Their model, they thought, had the potential of helping many more refugee scholars than his and in many more fields of inquiry, across all the disciplines. They were not limiting themselves to the social sciences. But Johnson refused to do so. While he was happy to help them find places for refugees in other universities, he continued recruiting faculty to his University in Exile as well.

What the IIE and Rockefeller had not anticipated was that other universities would not open their doors – at least not widely enough. In the end, Johnson alone welcomed more scholars at the New School than did all the other American universities combined. (Written interview with Judith Friedlander).

86Without diminishing the accomplishments of the IIE, Rockefeller and the New School, we must also acknowledge the fact that these institutions did not try to save every scholar who was in need of assistance. They limited their efforts to leading figures in their academic fields. Admittedly they did not have the funds to save everyone, but the reality is also sobering:

“The bar was very high. Many were passed over for not being distinguished or famous enough. Others for being too old. What do we know about the scholars who did not receive invitations? In Well Worth Saving (2019) Laurel Leff tells the story of the many other professors and researchers whose applications were rejected.” (Written interview with Judith Friedlander).

87Interestingly, the initial doubtful positioning of these scholar rescue organizations vis-à-vis the “University in Exile” idea resurfaced 85 years later, when the NUIE Consortium project was proposed to and, once again discouraged by the IIE.

88What is most interesting here, however, is the sharp contrast between the attitudes of the two New School presidents 85 years apart from each other. Though it would be wrong to neglect the ideological engagements and personality differences of the two presidents, the major determinants in this opposition are seemingly the contexts to which they have had to adapt. Unlike today, in the first half of the 20th century, especially in the US, social sciences were regarded necessary and important. Judith Friedlander touches on the specificities of this context in which the New University in Exile was founded as follows:

Americans have never respected intellectuals – something Tocqueville noted in the 1830s – at least not to the same extent as the French and other Europeans. That said, there have always been influential circles of intellectuals in the U.S. And New York has served as an important center of intellectual life since the 18th century, as Thomas Bender demonstrates in his wonderful book The New York Intellect. […] The social sciences took root in the U.S. during the last quarter of the 19th century, but mostly at the graduate level. They became more important in the curriculum for liberal arts students after the crash of 1929 and the rise of fascism in Europe. […] The founding faculty of the New School were for the most part, social scientists with a strong interest in economics – even the historian Charles Beard focused on economic history. […] The founders were so committed to offering courses in economics that they almost drove the New School into bankruptcy. Although the founding faculty had difficulty accepting it, adult students in New York during the 1920s weren’t interested in studying economics. They wanted to learn about psychoanalysis and the arts. This lack of interest changed with the economic collapse of 1929, at which point adult students clamored for courses on economics, politics and society (written interview with Judith Friedlander).

89In today’s universities that have been deeply embedded in the neoliberal modes of governance, the social sciences and humanities – except for a limited number of social science departments focused primarily on practical professional training – no longer represent a center of attraction. Additionally, the rescue action’s trajectory today does no longer occur between countries with equally developed academic settings in social science fields, or from more developed countries to less developed ones, as was the case in the 1930s. On the other hand, due to the ‘inflation’ of humanitarian rescue programs, the bar of selection for rescued scholars is lower than it was 85 years ago. Hence, the number of exiled scholars has boomed, too. Finally, the growing academic migration following the globalization trends in the 1990s has already responded to the “need for diversity” in faculty ranks. In such a context, the outcome of the NUIEC venture is seemingly better than that of the PAUSE Program with respect to keeping exiled scholars in the zone of assistance and as distant as possible from the zone of disaffiliation. However, despite the efforts of its initiators and animators, it cannot provide them secure employment opportunities, as Alvin Johnson and other rescue organizations were able to do in the 1930s and 1940s. Arien Mack describes the growing difficulties that NUIE fellow scholars are encountering with these words:

In the United States, there are too many PhDs for very few positions. Our newly minted PhDs end up have great difficulty finding tenure track-positions and often frequently end up doing underpaid adjunct faculty work. Unfortunately, the exiled scholars must compete with these young American scholars. So, do I know the solution? No. all we can do is help and do what we can (interview with Arien Mack).

  • 21 Loïc Wacquant coined the concept of “centaur state” to show how neoliberalism, as an ideological an (...)

90Referring to Loïc Wacquant’s centaur state analogy21 to describe the neoliberal state, one can say that rescue actions for threatened the social science and humanities scholars, particularly in the case of AfP, generally lead to nothing but migration of the persecuted scholars from the authoritarian paternalistic body of the centaur state towards its liberal head. In other words, the persecuted signatory social science and humanities scholars in exile still cannot overcome the risk of unemployment and disaffiliation. With a vulture academic capitalism and a shrinking job market especially in social sciences and humanities, the academia of the U.S. has already been based on an apartheid-like functioning to the detriment of adjunct faculty, of which the percentage amounted to 73% in 2016. In the current academic stratification, the newcomer refugee scholars share inevitably the bottom rang with the young American adjunct faculty, in addition they also have to face the challenges of being in exile.

91The NUIE Consortium is committed to provide a community for endangered scholars. Through weekly online seminars, wherein the persecuted scholars deliberate on the subjects of exile, authoritarianism, or racism, the NUIEC also shows its dedication to create a fruitful intellectual environment for exiled scholars. However, despite the support of the NUIEC community, only those who already had, or are currently enrolled in, PhDs from prestigious American universities, have had a chance to compete for full-time academic positions in exile. For the rest, who are partially in the zone of assistance today, prospects of integration are not so different from those of the PAUSE fellows in France.

92A third venture outside of Turkey that this paper examines is Off-University, an organization with the goal of establishing a relationship with persecuted scholars beyond rescue actions or exile conditions.

Off-University: A Tool for In Situ Resistance to Academic Repression

93Off-University was founded in 2017 by a group of persecuted signatory academics, who had left Turkey in the beginning of the purge and settled in Germany. The venture aims to create “new strategies to uphold and sustain academic life and knowledge threatened by anti-democratic and authoritarian regimes” (“Off-University - About Us” 2017). After being established as a charitable organization according to German law, in October 2017, Off-University had its inauguration with an online conference entitled “Tough Questions about Peace.” Since then, it has offered a distance learning program to meet the needs of “people from all parts of the world who have been forced to give up their work, research or studies due to war or political persecution” (“Off-University - About Us” 2017). The functioning of the organization can be portrayed as follows: first, candidates apply with their course proposals to Off-University. Then, the university sends these proposals to higher education institutions, which admitted hosting the courses and to issue participation certificates for students. Following that, in the third step, Off-University undertakes the task of anonymously enrolling students to these courses through a secure online platform and compensates the teaching labor of hosted scholars with a living wage. Thus, once their course proposal is accepted, regardless of his or her country of settlement, a persecuted jobless scholar can earn an income by teaching. This venture, which was Turkey-centered in terms of the nationality of applicants in the first two years, has gradually become more international. However, this process of internationalization has not equally affected and transformed the social sciences and humanities-centered curricula, which is already fragile and precarious in the face of contemporary conflicts of the faculties under neoliberal authoritarianism.

94Unlike the rescue organizations concentrated on propagating and reproducing an unequal “savior-victim” relationship and a discourse of “victimhood,” Off-University was established by persecuted and mostly exiled signatory scholars for those who are trapped in Turkey as much as for themselves; some of the initiators of Off-University face the risk of losing their current positions or residence permits in Germany in the near future. In this respect, “solidarity” carries more weight in the vocabulary of this initiative compared to terms like “help,” “assist,” or “rescue.” Furthermore, the dynamic of reciprocity between those who teach (persecuted academics) and those who render possible and/or mediate for the secure and fair conduct of this opportunity can hardly translate into a “patronage” relationship between parties.

95Julia Strutz, a human geographer, who received her PhD in 2009 with a thesis on 19th century Istanbul and currently a postdoctoral researcher in urbanism at LMU Munich University, described the founding process of the venture as one of the initiators of Off-University:

The idea of creating an initiative for showing a concrete solidarity with persecuted colleagues in Turkey came out while we were talking among us as signatory academics already moved to Berlin. The gist was to open online courses through which our colleagues who fell out of work due to the academic repression might earn income by teaching. In other words, the quest of finding a solution to a specific problem pushed us to develop this idea. As you know, academics who were purged with executive decrees have had no right neither to work in Turkey nor to leave it because of the restriction over their passports. The specific problem to which we were trying to find solutions was this. Of course, we thought also if a good thing might come out of this disaster and if this might create an opportunity to meet again with students. In this process Berlin was important because a lot of persecuted signatory academics had already come to this city. But as the developers of this idea, we knew each other from İstanbul (interview with Julia Strutz).

96The home for the startup of this venture, as Strutz highlighted, was Berlin. The city has apparently been the most attractive for intellectuals, who have fled Turkey due to political repression since the mid-2010s. In a report published by Timo Lehmann in Süddeutsche Zeitung, the attractiveness of Berlin for exiled intellectuals from Turkey was depicted as follows:

The exiles are talking about a ‘New Wave’ of Turkish immigrants coming to Germany. Though some have gone to Paris, London and New York, Berlin offers the best conditions for most of them: an international scene, affordable rents, an already-existing Turkish cultural life, one to which they can connect” (Lehmann 2017).

97Moving to a new city in a foreign country, where there is already a rich cultural life familiar with exiled scholars, most certainly reduces the risk of falling into the zone of disaffiliation. However, besides Berlin’s/Germany’s extensive social opportunities particularly for those who fled from Turkey, there are other factors that have influenced threatened scholars’ choice of coming here, that is, the country’s will and capacity of hosting scholars. First of all, Germany is the country with the highest rates of academic staff employment in Europe. According to Eurostat’s Tertiary Education Statistics, in 2017, Germany’s teaching staff numbered 407,100 while that of France was 128,200 (Eurostat 2019); in other words, the numbers of academic employment in Germany was nearly threefold of its French counterpart, while the population of Germany was only 1.2 times larger than that of France. Secondly, Germany was one of the countries that demonstrated the most proactive attitudes regarding the academic purge in Turkey. The swift establishment of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative is concrete evidence of this attitude. The choice of names for this initiative is also important and deserves to be briefly touched upon. Philipp Schwartz was a Hungarian-born Jewish pathologist from Frankfurt, who “had been accused of communist activities following the Nazi seizure of power and suspended from his university” (Ege; Hagemann 2012: 955). He then moved to Switzerland, where in 1933 he established the Emergency Assistance Organization for German Scientists Abroad (Notgemeinschaft Deutscher Wissenschaftler im Ausland). During his work within the framework of this organization, he met Albert Malche, who had already prepared a report about the Turkish higher education system (specifically about the Darülfünun) and presented it to the Turkish government in June 1932. This report provided a basis for university reform, which in turn, as previously mentioned, provided a basis for the first academic purge in Turkey. Thus, Philipp Schwartz played a key role as a mediator between persecuted academics from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia and the Turkish government, About one hundred scholars purged from their universities by Nazis and pro-Nazis, including Schwartz himself, were employed at İstanbul University, an institution which, as a twist of fate, was once the home for another some hundred purged scholars from the closed Darülfünun, but became increasingly nationalist in the 1930s. Both Philipp Schwartz’s memories and İzzet Behar’s examination of the correspondence between İsmet İnönü, the Turkish prime minister of the time, and Albert Einstein concludes that in the recruitment of persecuted (mostly Jewish) scholars, the Turkish raison d’état was always in the foreground for the Turkish government rather than humanitarian motives (Bahar 2012: 97). As for the Turkish counterparts of these exiled scholars in İstanbul, they were not always hospitable to their new colleagues, who were earning four times more than them and, additionally, were assigned an assistant, something that the Turkish scholars had never had (Reisman 2007: 472). In the second half of the 2010s, the German government’s choice of Philipp Schwartz’s name for a fellowship to host threatened scholars, initially including persecuted scholars from Turkey, was significant because of this historical background. Of course, the raison d’état in the background of this choice was not the same as that of the Turkish government in the 1930s. Chatterjee and Maira’s (2014) previously mentioned “imperial university” approach seems to be more applicable in understanding the current German government’s strategy. On the other hand, the eligibility criteria of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative’s fully funded 24-month research fellowships are substantially aligned with the German higher education’s funding model based on a certain “excellence strategy” in force since the second part of the 2000s. That is to say, the selection among the candidates, who must be under threat, is made according to the candidate’s language skills, academic qualifications, potential to be integrated into the research-related job market, etc. (see “About the Foundation” 2016).

98In such a competitive context, Julia Strutz highlights two important lines of tension surfacing among exiled academics in Germany. One of them is the tension occurring among the persecuted academics for access to funding opportunities, while the other arises between exiled scholars with long-term research fellowships and young German scholars with neither a tenure track position nor a long-term job contract:

In the two first years, almost all our activities were Turkey-focused. And [this is still the case]. The 95% of active members of the association are from Turkey. But we have started to be transformed. On the one hand, those who came to Germany from Turkey have today more opportunities to be included into other networks. And we want also Off-University not to be a Turkey-focused venture. On the other hand, in Berlin there is an increasing competition between immigrant groups. This is a disgusting thing. If you dont work, for example, with a Syrian exiled scholar, you are automatically a Turkish nationalist. Thus, we are making a lot of effort to work with other immigrant scholar groups. […] Academics under risk who come to Germany with a research fellowship have two-plus-one-year contract. Any German PhD holder scholar specialized on the same topic cannot find an employment opportunity of three years. They are working in the same department. And they might have a silly competition between them. According to current statistics, only 4% of finished PhDs succeed in finding a permanent job in academia. For a while we started to discuss between us whether we, as scholars under risk, are deepening or not the existing competition in the academic field because we are a cheap labor force. We can teach using our academic titles as professor, associate professor, etc. We have already had experience of teaching. We are interrogating whether, by teaching, we are making way for reducing young PhDs’ chance of competing in the academic job market, or not. These questions are largely discussed between experienced scholars who came from Turkey (interview with Julia Strutz).

99Strutz’s observations about the aggravated competitiveness among different exiled scholar groups, also between exiled scholars as a whole and job-seeking young German academics, are interesting in the context of this investigation. In the more neoliberal funding model of higher education based on “competitive research grants” to the detriment of “government core funding” (see Jongbloed 2010), entities in the academic field (i.e. universities, academic personnel, or students) behave in a more competitive spirit. This education and research-funding model, which legitimates itself through a discourse of “excellence” as a component of neoliberal meritocracy, equally applies to fellowships for threatened scholars, apparently feeding a competitive behavior among candidates. On the other hand, the increase in the number of this kind of fellowships that grounds its inclusion criteria upon the material risks of political persecution and warfare is accompanied by a sentiment of injustice among some adjunct faculty and precarious researchers, who have already been subjected to “academic apartheid” (DeSantis 2011) and a growing social isolation and alienation risk. The victimization of fellowship-holding exiled scholars might be seen, at least for some precarious “native” academics, as a coping mechanism so as to minimize their feelings of injustice. In such a brutally competitive context, as in the case described above of the PAUSE Program applicant from a Western non-European country, we also witness the emergence of some exiled scholars, who are at risk on paper for remotely being part of persecuted groups but physically do live abroad, away from the immediate risk of persecution, taking advantage of these fellowships to find relatively long-term jobs. At the same time, we are witnessing the existence of some “native” precarious scholars, who are apparently suspicious about the risk evaluation model of these fellowship programs and, more broadly, are suspicious about the definition of “risk” as a whole.

100The difficulty about defining “risk” is equally underlined by Julia Strutz:

We can assess applications from Turkey for teaching at Off-University in respect to the risk. But when it comes to other countries, we have no such a capability. Suppose that there is a candidate from Poland, that is to say from the European Union’s member country, who is studying gender studies. However, he or she currently has a position in a university in Poland. That is to say he or she is not currently jobless. On the other hand, he or she has been exposed to an investigation about his or her teaching/research activities or political activities but the investigation has been closed. What can we say about whether this person is under risk or not? […] Such cases are very complex. Additionally, the risk issue is a very personal thing (interview with Julia Strutz).

101Julia Strutz says that Off-University tries to resolve this question by defining two relatively measurable criteria for applications: being jobless and being under persecution. However, if there are hundreds of scholars in a similar situation, at least on paper, as in the case of the AfP, assessing applications in terms of risk grows more and more difficult:

The most galling thing for me, particularly during the applications, is the efforts of some candidates to pull some strings. ‘He or she is very needy, is in an awkward situation’ and such like… It is very annoying. Because they put me in a difficult position. Anyway, I’m not the person to select the courses. On the other hand, I am also aware that this manner is a part of dominant academic culture. Even so, I’m finding it disgraceful (interview with Julia Strutz).

102It is not surprising to hear that in the market-like competitive academic field, networking activities – based largely on professional connections, but also on activist ones – represent a tool for creating differences between persecuted academics to access some positions and fellowships. Within this category, it is not hard to guess that being in one’s early career–a weakness in terms of professional networking capacity and being relatively isolated from activist circles – a weakness in terms of activism-based networking capacity – would diminish one’s chances to succeed in getting certain fellowships.

103In the case of the signatory academics, these inequalities prevailed since the persecution process first began. As Aslı Odman underlines, “The price of being a signatory of the peace petition has been unequally distributed among signatories through class and status cleavages. Even though the efforts of solidarity groups among signatories for creating networks in order to provide some material, moral and mobility supports to share out the burden of this price have…somewhat succeeded, these did not change radically this situation based on structural inequalities” (Odman 2018).

104The two requirements of being jobless and being under persecution that Off-University makes obligatory for submitting course proposals do not guarantee that class or status inequalities will be overcome among signatories; in fact, the course proposals selected by academic organizations were generally taught by relatively senior persecuted academics with a considerable amount of international academic experience. On the other hand, among junior scholars at risk, having his or her PhD from the U.S. seems equally to be an asset in this increasingly excellence-based competitive atmosphere.

In Germany, we are witnessing that academic institutions want to pick up signatory candidates having got their PhD degrees from the US. Because in Germany, like in Turkey, a PhD from the US is an appreciated thing. And there are a lot of young graduate students from Turkey who had signed the petition while doing their PhD in the US. Usually there is neither investigation nor prosecution against them. But they are nevertheless signatories. Are these people under risk, really? Actually, these people might also be considered as academic job seekers who could not find employment opportunity in the US. It is a debating subject between us (interview with Julia Strutz).

105Excellence and risk are two key criteria for selecting endangered scholars to be funded, and the former apparently preponderates over the latter. However, as it is mentioned before, in the 1930s the situation was not so different regarding the prioritization of excellence. The academic job market was significantly smaller and, consequently, only a few renowned rescued scholars could find tenured positions in their settlement countries. But unlike the 1930s, risk, which is a subjective construction, has become ubiquitous in today’s society and academia, and this renders risk evaluations more complex and disputable.

106Even so, ventures launched and run by academics themselves, such as Off-University and the New University in Exile Consortium, can create cooperative relationships with each other more easily than more professionalized and institutionalized rescue organizations, which are managed according to business principles or bureaucratic administration models. One cannot create a dynamic human relationship with employees of these latter organizations, either because they are frequently changing due to the apparently precarious working conditions or because they adopt the principle of not establishing personal relations with their scholarship holders. In contrast, academic-led ventures are always in close – and most often friendly – contact with fellow scholars, which lets them evolve in a dynamic and interactive way. If academic resistance means not buckling under the current state and market authoritarianism targeting predominantly social science and humanities scholars, then creating and running such ventures might be considered as examples par excellence of academic resistance:

We have a couple of professors with whom we have worked for a while. We are, so to say, employers of them. They can continue their academic works through teaching at the Off-University. There are three or four academics who are teaching continuously. But by now at least 20 persecuted academics have taught across one or two semesters. It is not merely an issue about earning money. They can keep in touch with students, they can complete their courses which were unachieved because of the academic purge. I think it is the best side of this matter (interview with Julia Strutz).


107The case of the AfP represents a continuum in the history of higher education in modern Turkey, which has been rich in academic purges. Almost without exception, each change in the capital accumulation regime and simultaneously in political power led to an academic purge. However, the case of the AfP, as an episode in the most sweeping academic purge in the country’s history, has some unique characteristics in terms of scope and scale. First of all, this most recent purge aimed to condemn targeted academics to “civic death” as punishment. The rationale underlying this punishment, which shows itself as a tool of necropolitics, is to confine targeted academics in the zone of disaffiliation. On the one hand, it leaves them jobless through executive decrees that make it essentially impossible to find new jobs, while, on the other hand, it breaks the persecuted academics’ ties with society through a mediatic stigmatization campaign accompanied by criminal proceedings and wiping out their basic rights to express themselves in the public sphere. Secondly, the recent purge of the AfP, which was different in many ways from that of Gülenists, has manifested itself as a sweeping purge of social scientists and humanists overlapping, in this sense, with the current transformations of higher education and research and of the university itself. Correspondingly, the purge of the AfP makes sense within the ongoing conflicts of faculties under authoritarian neoliberalism.

108Immanuel Kant penned The Conflict of The Faculties in 1798, in order “to ground a more comprehensive vision of how universities should relate to society and how their component faculties should interact internally” (Schapira 2019: 113). In this text, after having defined the university as an autonomous community of learned people, Kant talks about the conflict between the higher faculties (theology, law, and medicine, the subjects of which are respectively the spiritual, civil, and physical well-being of people, thus making them practically useful for any government) and the lower faculties (mainly philosophy, but equally including all natural and social sciences with subjects of the pursuit of truth and its defense, both in the university and in society, at the cost of going against the powerful and the majority). Without denying the practical importance of the higher faculties and the irrevocability of the conflicts inherent to them, Kant advocates the idea that the philosophy faculty, which derives its authority from reason, must be the chief pillar for any university that intends to exist autonomously and to remain relatively sheltered against interventions of governments and other power groups, as much as to prevent society (and itself, as a learned community) from moving away from the pursuit of truth on grounds of personal interests and practical utility. Today, the autonomy of the university as well as the pursuit of truth seems to be more at risk than ever before, just as is the “philosophy faculty” at universities around the world.

109Authoritarian neoliberalism, predicating that the university as well as the state should be run like a company, correspondingly evaluates the sciences (scientific disciplines) and their staff according to their utility for both the market and the state. Consequently, the authoritarian neoliberal raison d’état considers the defense of the university’s autonomy to be unhelpful, and even harmful, if it does not contribute to national interests. Likewise, market rationality sees the pursuit of truth worthless if it does not create direct added value. Finally, in a context of post-truth politics where emotions and beliefs prevail over factual truths, social scientists and even more so humanities scholars become obviously disposable in the eyes of authoritarian governments and university administrations, conquered most often by the higher faculties that, in contrast to the universities of Kant’s era, have been expanded with the participation of market-friendly scientific disciplines, including some categorically put under the label of social sciences.

110These transformations and their various effects have come to the surface in the case of the AfP. The massive character of this academic purge as well as the vast predominance of social scientists and humanists among the purged signatory academics are evidence of this fact.

111President Erdoğan’s statements just after the release of the peace petition clearly show the rationale underlying the purge of the AfP: “We face the betrayal of so-called intellectuals who receive their salaries from the state and carry the ID, passport of this state, while holding a higher welfare level comparing to the average of the country” (as cited in Altuntaş 2016). Following this statement, the Turkish state acted like a paternalistic company in defiance of the constitutional rights of signatory academics, firing some of them from both their universities and, by restricting their citizenship rights, from the state, so to speak, which has been for some time rather an enterprise-state (Musso 2019). The arbitrary conduct of the purge by the state, namely the condemnation of more than 500 signatories to “civic death” without touching the rest to the same degree, might be explained by the same transformation. Apparently, the administration of higher education and presidents of universities behaved separately, but in accord with one another regarding private profit and loss accounts. They carried out the purge in a way that would not change Turkey’s universities’ places in international rankings based on essentially quantitative indicators, while at the same time their appeal to various methods of repression and necropolitical violence paralyzed the pursuit of truth by critical social science and humanities scholars. For these reasons, the purge of the AfP should not be considered as separate from the ongoing conflict of the faculties, in which the odds are stacked against the university as we have known it since the Humboldtian revolution.

112Hundreds of purged signatory social scientists and humanities scholars, who migrated to Western countries with the assistance of humanitarian organizations, have still not liberated themselves from the negative effects of this same conflict. In the scholar-migrant-receiver countries that we have discussed here, namely France, the United States, and Germany, the situation was not always better, especially for those wanting to continue their academic career abroad. In comparison with the academic migration of the 1930s, exiled academics today are not more competent than their counterparts in their countries of settlement, and the existing academic institutions do not have extra demand for newcomer social scientists and humanities scholars. On the contrary, when this last migrant flow occurred, these institutions had already put an adjunct faculty model into place to diminish the cost of education, especially in the social sciences and humanities. As a result, due to the increasingly shrinking employment capacity in these disciplines, only those who have PhDs, previous professional experience abroad, and foreign language fluency, might be relatively – though, in most cases, temporarily – integrated into the teaching and research staff of their host institutions, possibly at the expense of the growing body of “native” adjunct candidates trapped in this precarious situation. However, the great majority of exiled scholars have survived in the zone of vulnerability by means of fellowships designed for threatened scholars, which, by their very nature, ensure the reproduction of victimhood. In other words, the work of humanitarian scholar rescue organizations, which are structured as a business model and backed directly or indirectly by states that cherish “imperial university” perspectives, does not generally allow exiled scholars to be integrated into academia in their countries of settlement, but rather to be hosted for a limited period of time abroad in purgatory.

113In such a context, we are witnessing the emergence of initiatives mainly launched by academics, and usually by social scientists and humanities scholars, who are settled in relatively “free” Western countries, in solidarity with persecuted academics from relatively “authoritarian” parts of the world. Off-University in Germany and the New University in Exile Consortium (NUIEC) in the US, as described in this article, are two examples of this kind of initiatives. The NUIEC is concentrated on assisting exiled scholars and facilitating their integration into academia in the US. However, due to the ongoing conflict of the faculties, in practice, the initiative does not sufficiently prevent them from being drawn into the zone of disaffiliation. Off-University focuses on providing resources and opportunities for persecuted unemployed academics regardless of their physical location. For that purpose, it functions through an online teaching platform through which they can earn money and continue their scientific encounters. In this sense, Off-University prioritizes supporting persecuted academics – at this point, mainly persecuted signatory academics from Turkey – in their own countries, where they are exposed to academic and political repression. Within the context of the ongoing conflict of the faculties, the efforts of this kind of academic-led initiatives should also be considered for the benefit of the social sciences, humanities, and other scientific disciplines, for which the pursuit of truth and the defense of the idea of university have always been top priority.

114In conclusion, as the case of the AfP shows, attacks by authoritarian governments against critical social science and, humanities scholars, and scientists from various other disciplines, who are committed to the public interest instead of raison d’état or market rationality, cannot be overcome simply by rescuing persecuted academics from their countries. The conflict of the faculties is taking place globally; thus, the success of the resistance in defense of the pursuit of truth and the autonomy of the university seems to depend on a struggle carried out on the same level, in order for the actual defeat of academic capitalism with its ultracompetitive and predatory variances.

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1 As Erozan and Turan stated, in 1982, “the military committee […] engaged in a major reorganization of the university system, […] which would bring the universities under closer scrutiny of the central government and to insure that the universities would no longer function as ‘hotbeds of political radicalism’. A standard organizational model placed all universities under the tutelage of a new central organ named the Higher Education Council” (Erozan ; Turan 2004: 360). The Higher Education Council has always been the major actor of academic repression since then. For a recent work about the effects of the 1983 purge on intellectuals and intellectual life in Turkey, see Ulusoy 2019.

2 Built around the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen brotherhood made significant progress following the 1980 coup d’état. Just before the July 15 incident in 2016, the Gülenists were believed to control the state bureaucracy, especially the police, the judiciary, and the army. Their support was of critical importance for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2002 and 2010. For the history of AKP-Gülen Conflict see Taş (2018).

3 There are numerous unclear issues regarding the unfolding of the July 15 incident. The starting time of this “coup attempt” (around 7:30 pm, during Friday evening rush), ‘spectacular’ method they used (sending the military college students with a couple of tanks to the Bosphorus Bridge in order to block the road only one direction), and “amateur” media captured attempts of the putschists are a few to name. What is clear is that the incident -the “coup attempt” and its failure- has distinct political consequences on domestic and foreign policy which are quite obvious: the declaration of the state of emergency on July 20, the meeting between Erdoğan and Putin in St. Petersburg on August 9 while Turkey’s Western allies were keeping their silence about the incident, the military intervention (or invasion) of the Turkish Armed Forces into northeastern Syria on August 24, and the start of a sweeping purge within the state and public institutions. All these consequences strengthen the idea that the “coup attempt” was a premeditated reprisal by a faction within the state against one another, -if it was not a mise-en-scene or a trap- in order to implement a more authoritarian, more Islamo-nationalist and more irredentist regime relatively distanced from the NATO axis.

4 After the publication of the petition (for its content, see:, for example, the signatory Latife Akyüz, an assistant professor of sociology at Düzce University, was summoned by the local prosecutor simultaneously with the suspension from her position and harassed at home with death threats after a local newspaper published an article calling her a traitor. The case of Ramazan Kurt, a teaching assistant of philosophy at Erzurum Atatürk University, was similar. Almost all signatory academics working at universities located in bastions of conservatism in Turkey had to leave their homes from fear of being exposed to physical violence or even being murdered. In addition to these locally organized attacks, a more centralized one occurred in İstanbul with the imprisonment of four academics, assistant professors Meral Camcı (linguist), Esra Mungan (psychologist), and Muzaffer Kaya (historian) and associate professor Kıvanç Ersoy (mathematician), after they gave a press briefing on March 10, 2016, about the attacks that signatories were exposed to and their determination of not giving up their defense of the petition’s claims.

5 Based on the persecution of the AfP, 822 signatories were put on trial between October 2017 and July 2019 with the accusation of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” (For a detailed documentation obout the AfP case, see Acad. Peace - A Case Study Doc. Context. Instrum. Law Turkey, 2020),

6 By the term of “academic purge” I mean the massive expulsion of academics from universities due to their political attitudes (such as signing of a critical petition) or their affiliations (being a member of a dissident trade union or a religious sect) that are disapproved by central government. Even though there is a critical difference in Turkey between dismissals without or with decree laws in terms of loss of rights, the majority of those who were dismissed without decree law has been equally blacklisted and excluded from Turkey’s academia. Thus, this category also needs to be categorized as “purged academics”.

7 When saying “allegedly Gülenist,” I do not include all academics who lost their jobs with the 15 private universities run directly or indirectly by Gülenist circles (all of which were closed) and were afterwards blacklisted, or those who have been accused and purged with the accusation of being Gülenist -and being part of a coup attempt- without any solid evidence. Rather, I mean academics who adopted the faith principles and “career plans” preached by Fethullah Gülen.

8 Even though, centre/periphery distinction is ambiguous because of the spatial and temporal relativity of each signifier, tout de même I found significant to compare three biggest cities (Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir) with the rest of the country regarding the purge statistics, even though there are few exceptional cases in both categories. I made this categorization because Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir are distinguished from the rest of Turkey by their population (more than 31% out of the total population), their GNP share (having a part more than 46% of the gross national product), and the number of universities based in these cities (hosting almost 45% of all universities).

9 Following the July 15 incident, acting or former rectors of Adnan Menderes University, Akdeniz University, Celal Bayar University, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Dicle University, Dokuz Eylül University, Hacettepe University, Namık Kemal University, Pamukkale University, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University, Selçuk University, Uşak University, Yalova University, were prosecuted and/or expelled from public service with the accusation of being affiliated to the Gülen Movement.

10 For a more detailed analysis of these “taşra üniversiteleri,” see Şengül (2014) and Özarslan (2019).

11 That is not to say that the exposure to repression of this insignificant minority in terms of quantity was also insignificant in terms of quality. On the contrary, this group generally suffered more from physical and psychological violence (see Diler, 2016).

12 Faculty Member Trainee Program of Higher Education Council remained in force between 2010 and 2016. The rationale of the program was to train in long-established metropolitan universities qualified faculty members for newly-established provincial universities in need of academic staff.

13 The common quality of signatories from hard and natural sciences seems to be either being an engaged scholar in issues like public health or urbanism, or, witnessing closely what really happened during the curfew in Kurdish provinces from July 2015 to December 2016. Even though this group was a minority among signatories, disproportionally with their number, many of them were highly engaged with the solidarity efforts.

14 This question is answered by Barış Ünlü with reference to his own concept of the “Turkishness contract” and the will of signatory academics to violate this contract by signing the petition entitled “We will not be party to this crime!” (see Ünlü 2018). According to Ünlü, simply expressing oneself on this subject against recurring state practices might be considered as a violation of the “contract.” I wish this interpretation were true. However, neither the content of the petition nor the statements of academics before the Court – with a few exceptions – called the “Turkishness contract” into question. Rather, the objection to the war and to the violations of human rights in Kurdish provinces as well as the defense of “the pursuit of truth” and “academic freedom” represent the common themes of the vast majority of academics’ statements before the Court. Zerrin Özlem Biner’s assessment seems to me closer to reality: “The act of signing the petition was therefore not about a shared position with regard to the resolution of the Kurdish conflict or about political ideas on co‐existence. It was a collective response to the growing authoritarianism in Turkey, an ethical and political statement voicing the solidarity of academics living predominantly outside the Kurdish region with what we knew to be happening there” (Biner 2019: 21).

15 Seniority, gender, social network capacity, foreign language knowledge, healthiness, wealth, etc. have all had impacts on the ways in which purged academics dealt with the persecution.

16 Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira coined the term “imperial university” as a corollary of imperial and colonial nations’ use of intellectuals and scholarship to legitimize their “exceptionalism” as well as “expansionism” and the crucial importance of the academy’s role in supporting state policies (Chatterjee ; Maira 2014: 6–7).

17 The petition, first announced to the public with 1,128 signatories on January 11, was submitted to Parliament with 2,212 signatures in total (HRFT Academy, 2019). When the petition was first released, 208 signatories of 1,128 (17%) were from universities abroad, and in 10 days that number had rapidly reached 701 of 2,212 (31%).

18 It is known that not many universities in Turkey recruit signatory academics and will only do so if the individuals have not been expelled with executive decree and consequently are not been banned from public service.

19 This situation is qualified by Aslı Vatansever as “a nomadic mode of living” (Vatansever 2018) among those who are not able to return to their own countries or to settle anywhere else.

20 According to Robert Castel, the integration of individuals in a society depends on their positions in relation to two axes: work and sociability. For this approach, only stable work and strong social embeddedness let individuals be well integrated. Being embedded in a certain sociability without work eventually pushes them into the zone of assistance, whereas having precarious work without strong social ties drives them towards the zone of vulnerability. The lack of both work and sociability opens pathways of disaffiliation.

21 Loïc Wacquant coined the concept of “centaur state” to show how neoliberalism, as an ideological and political program aiming to create optimal conditions for the further accumulation of capital, and to discipline people in lower positions, combines “liberalism at the top of class structure, and punitive paternalism at the bottom” (Wacquant 2012).

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List of illustrations

Caption Figure 1: Ratios of purged “Academics for Peace” to all purged academics in the three largest cities and the rest of the country.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
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Caption Figure 2: Universities in which more than 4 signatory academics have lost their jobs by September 12, 2016.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
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Caption Figure 3: Universities that had purged more than 20 signatory academics (i.e. more than 3.5% of all purged signatory academics).
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 14k
Caption Figure 4: Universities with the largest number of signatory academics in January 2016.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 15k
Caption Figure 5: Distribution of 105 dismissed AfP in September 2016, according to their disciplines.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 17k
Caption Figure 6: Distribution of 414 AfP purged with executive decrees according to their disciplines.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 21k
Caption Figure 7: Distribution of the dismissed AfP according to their titles by September 12, 2016.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 19k
Caption Figure 8: Distribution of AfP academics expelled with executive decrees according to their titles.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 24k
Caption Figure 9: Distribution of the research assistants expelled with executive decrees according to their disciplines.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
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Caption Figure 10: Numbers of expelled signatory academics by executive decrees.
Credits (Source: AfP Solidarity Database)
File image/png, 22k
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Electronic reference

Cem Özatalay, Purge, Exile, and Resistance:
Rethinking the Conflict of the Faculties through the Case of Academics for Peace in Turkey
European Journal of Turkish Studies [Online], 30 | 2020, Online since 15 December 2020, connection on 20 April 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Cem Özatalay

Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Galatasaray University

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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