IASR back from summer holidays: welcoming new researchers!

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Our fellows are back from summer holidays and welcoming new researchers!

Please, check our page here to learn about our researchers.

Our usual kick-off seminar held on September 6-7 at Wuolle Mansion, Hauho, allowed fellows to introduce their research to each other and exchange new ideas. With this post we start introducing our new fellows and their research.

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Laura Ahva: To understand journalism, we need to look elsewhere – introducing new researchers

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Laura Ahva is a researcher of journalism, media and communication. She received her PhD in 2011 at University of Tampere where she has mostly worked since; as a postdoctoral researcher and senior researcher. She has specialised in questions of participation in journalism: how non-journalists can increasingly take part in news making and the resulting public discussion. Laura Ahva is currently a senior research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the University of Tampere.

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“There is no need for every journalist to become a coder but everyone needs to understand information technology and its logic.” This is a quotation from the university magazine, Aikalainen, where Jussi Tuulensuu, the editor-in-chief of a regional newspaper Aamulehti, reflected on the future of journalism and journalism education.

The sentence sounds familiar for many people working in journalism practice, research and teaching – in fact, I believe I said almost the exact same sentence to the students last year. On the one hand, coding and the resulting algorithms provide possibilities for journalists to analyze and present digital data in new ways, but on the other hand, algorithms as non-human actors have been given an increasingly central role in deciding the kinds of news that users get to see, a role that used to be played by professional editors.

Coding and the entire field of information technology is just one example of the various aspects that journalists need to understand better. There are many fields that are now more than ever shaping journalism’s organizational structures, ethical standards or economic sustainability.

In my upcoming research project as an IASR fellow, I will examine actors and practices that shape journalism but originate from the fields of technology, economy and culture. These practices have not traditionally been regarded as “journalistic” but are becoming more important for journalism and ultimately to the kind of public discussion we can have. The practices I will focus on, are connected to coding, entrepreneurialism and eventification. They are practised by people who actively take part in journalistic work, but whose position may not be that of a journalist. These people can be data miners, startup coaches or event organisers.

Furthermore, these people are not necessarily located in the newsrooms: journalism is increasingly happening outside or in the outskirts of traditional newsrooms, for example in hackathon meetings where technologists scrape data for stories, in business hubs where new start-ups are developed by entrepreneurs, or at theatre stages where the presentation of journalism is dramatized.

Therefore, if we wish to better assess the possible futures of journalism practice and also adjust journalism education accordingly, we need to tap into “non-journalistic” practices that emanate from the neighboring fields but result in constructing the field of journalism.

To understand journalism, I will have to look elsewhere.

Secessions Within Federalism: A Cure for Destructive Nationalism – Catalonia and the EU by Robert Imre

Catalonia is yet another political case that demonstrates the necessity of strengthening a federal construct in the EU. Now that Britain is on the way out, and a major critic of federalism as a viable political option will no longer be present (after all, even with the ‘home nations’ and devolution, the UK never managed to progress to a federal state), it is time for the EU to embrace the politics of unity. Federalism is just such a project and various models demonstrate how multiplicities of language and identity are viable within a politically unified system.

Germany is already such a nation, with proper federal constructs set up while at the same time maintaining regional identities and smaller decision-making capacities in municipalities and city-centred politics. Certainly there are different forms of federalism, and beyond Europe, arguably two of the most successful are Australia and Canada. In both countries, various powers are devolved to the states and provinces at the sub-federal level. For example, if a state such as Western Australia sees the need to set up a trade commission/delegation to a given region or nation, it is free to do so and indeed has done just that. All Australian states have trade commissions around the world. Canadian provinces have power over immigration, and can organise their respective education and health systems at the provincial level. Sections 51 and 52 of the original British North America Act of 1867 ensured that federation would not take away from these decision-making powers, and Australian federation in 1901 kept the same sections of the constitution. Canada’s ‘repatriation’ of the BNA Act in 1982 and the subsequent additions to the original formative constitution kept these legal positions and even when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added, which is a radically progressive addition guaranteeing individual and group rights and freedoms while at the same time curtailing hate speech and incitement to violence, it still placed primacy on balancing the rights of people(s) with local(ized) governing capacities.

In the Canadian case, there have been two recent ‘internal secessions’ and an ongoing debate about Quebec. There is no space here to discuss Quebec in detail, and this is always a process of negotiation. But politics is not only about consensus. It is also about living with dissensus and finding ways to accommodate various forms of difference while, crucially, expending neither blood nor treasure. In the case of Quebec, there was almost a proper secession in which Quebecois voters sought to leave Canada and form some type of ‘sovereignty-association’. The political (and cultural, social, economic) negotiation continues and there are varying degrees of success and failure, accommodation and conflict.

The two ‘internal secessions’ I want to focus on here, can be similar to Catalonia, provided we have a stronger federal construct in the EU. Such federal constructs then manage to take away the large modern problems that nations have difficulty managing individually (the military, and other special resource distributions such as building and maintaining transportation and communication connections, fixing environmental problems, are all massive transnational undertakings). This means that states and provinces have autonomy, like Catalonia would inside a federal construct. On the first of April, 1999, the Northwest Territories split in two parts, one retaining the original name, and the other part became Nunavut, a self-governing territory with an elected legislative assembly. This was the end of a long process around land claims by local Inuit people as well as an eventual referendum. This is an important political realignment recognizing First Nations and Indigenous Peoples capacities for political life. Canada’s tenth province, and last to join confederation in 1949, sought a constitutional amendment for several years, and was successful in a name change to officially change to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2001. Again, a political realignment within a federal construct meant that expressions of identity in a political territory could be negotiated with a desired change of the political designation, the actual name, of said territory. Internal negotiations not loss blood and treasure; accommodation by various political powers, not violent reactions to shifting territorial alignments; acceptance of identity claims, not rejection by powerful arms of the state.

There is much to be learned from Australian and Canadian federalism, and much to be gained by the EU, from moving in the direction of creating a type of confederation that both of those countries enjoy. It is in this way that dissensus can be managed, and secessions like Catalonia can then become viable political options without creating more political grievances that destroy nations.

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Dr Robert Imre is currently Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) at the University of Tampere and he begins as a researcher at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI) later on in 2018.

Our new fellows: Elina I. Mäkinen Translational Research in the Field of Medicine: The 15 Year Long Development Process

Elina I. Mäkinen is an organizational sociologist specializing in innovation, collaboration, and teamwork in the life sciences. She received her Ph.D. at Stanford University’s organization studies doctoral program and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the University of Tampere.

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A year ago, MIT published a report titled Convergence: The Future of Health (Sharp et al. 2016). This report presented the views of world-renowned scientists and medical researchers who argued that advances in the fight of diseases like cancer and dementia call for the integration of different types of expertise. The report highlighted the mixing of, for example, biomedical knowledge, engineering skills, and expertise in the physical, computational, and mathematical sciences. Converging different forms of knowledge in an effort to create new healthcare applications and technologies would not only benefit patients, but also potentially create new jobs and improve varied societal aspects.

This kind of research approach is very similar to translational research. Translational research in the field of medicine involves moving knowledge gained from the basic sciences to its application in clinical and community settings. Translational research cannot be achieved without collaboration and integration of knowledge among different experts.

While it is widely agreed that the ability to translate scientific discoveries to clinical practice is fundamental to improving healthcare, translational research process is challenging. The development process is slow and prone to failure. One estimate has been that it can take up to 15 years of research findings to be implemented in healthcare organizations (Balas and Boren 2000). At the same time, we do not know how many efforts fail during the development process or what kind of projects are even likely to get to the implementation stage.

My research agenda is directed at developing an understanding of the whole translational research process and the challenges for collaboration that projects face at different stages. This research agenda builds on my dissertation project conducted at Stanford University. My dissertation was a longitudinal ethnographic study on a new translational research center in the field of medicine seeking to uncover the causes of premature birth.

During the three years that I studied the center, it became evident that translational research process was threatened by challenges associated with collaboration in heterogeneous teams. Developing a shared, translational research narrative among scientists and physicians from different backgrounds was difficult, because it required letting go off one’s own research process and including elements from the work of others.

In order to develop a thorough understanding of translational research, it is important to understand how different experts are able to collaborate at different stages in the development process. Throughout the translational research process, team composition will vary. Depending on the developmental stage, teams could include researchers from the life and the physical sciences, healthcare practitioners, employees from university’s technology transfer and commercialization office, stakeholders from patient organizations, or social workers. As such, translational research is even more inclusive than the previously described convergent science.

I want to know, what the issues are that hamper collaboration at different stages. For example, is the knowledge boundary between a bioinformatician and a microbiologist easier to cross than the one between a social worker and a physician? If the challenges for collaboration are not resolved, what happens to the translational research process? Does the ease or difficulty associated with crossing a particular knowledge boundary relate to what kind of healthcare implementations we end up with?

The challenge for finding answers to these questions is being able to get access to the right kind of empirical settings. I am looking for translational research projects of varied levels of maturity focused on the development of healthcare related technologies, applications, or programs. I have been able to identify some, but the search still continues. If you think you can provide help with connecting me with the right people and projects, or are otherwise interested in this research effort, please get in touch: elina.i.makinen@uta.fi

References

Balas, E.A. and Boren, S.A. (2000): Managing clinical knowledge for healthcare improvement. In J. Bemmel and A. T. McCray (Eds.), Yearbook of Medical Informatics, 65–70.

Sharp, P., Jacks, T. and Hockfield, S. (2016): Convergence: The Future of Health. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

 

 

 

 

Approaching disruptive behaviour as learning by Zsuzsa Millei & Maiju Paananen

There has been concerning news about an increase in aggressive and disruptive behaviours of young children in kindergarten. Fingers are pointed to parents, teachers, children’s nature, the media or a changing society. Many families enrol children into preschool to learn social skills with their peers[1]. It is however rarely considered that behaving as expected in a new setting and with new people requires learning. The same way, misbehaviour, thus, could form a part of these learning processes of how to be with others in these educational environments.

Many times a finger is pointing to parents, who are claimed to neglect teaching children good behaviour. Others argue that it is the media that teaches children violence. Educational psychologists easily evaluate teachers as lacking appropriate skills, approaches or techniques to keep children under control and promote positive school environments. Yet again others, locate the problem in the social background, biology or personality of particular children. For example, teachers may act differently to children based on their skin colour.

Much of the advice directed at improving children’s behaviour focuses squarely on eliminating so called problem behaviours. This often happens through labelling children or devaluing teachers and parents. What happens if we consider ‘bad behaviour’ as an instance of learning or voicing something that is important for a child in a particular context. It becomes possible to move away from our strong urge to fix quickly what we first perceived as a problem behaviour and refocus the issue: What children can or like to accomplish through those acts?

The first issue that we need to immediately set aside is that behaviour is something that is independent from learning. The general assumption is that first every child needs to behave so learning can take place. This way of looking at the issue separates learning and behaviour.

In an example situation we show how assumptions about ‘bad behaviour’ and strategies to eliminate those might operate and how we can refocus our view of the event as part of children’s learning.

Miriam (3 years old) often goes into her room and closes her door after forcefully stressing ‘No one should disturb me’. Once a crayon drawing appeared on the wall. As she was asked about those drawings she said:

Miriam: ‘George did those drawings. He is very naughty. You should tell him off’. She says all this with a straight face.

George is an adult family friend who sometimes looks after Miriam and her sister and on those occasions he slept in Miriam’s room and Miriam slept in her sister’s room. When George came next to visit, Miriam confronted him:

Miriam: ‘Why did you draw on my wall? It is not nice, you know’.

George, knowing he did no such thing, started to laugh but didn’t protest. Miriam seemed content with this outcome.

A possible response to this scenario would likely have us concerned about this child’s behaviour. First, she possibly drew with crayons on the wall in her room. Second, she blamed someone else for her transgression. In other words, it would have us understand the scenario in terms of deceit and manipulation that could ignite a long discussion or punishment so this will not happen again.

Another option is to examine the example from the perspective of learning. If we understand behaviour-as-learning, our reading of this child could be that she playfully and quite competently explores the transgression of rules. She demonstrates that she knows very well that drawing with crayons on the wall is ‘naughty’, as she immediately knows how to name the culprit. She also demonstrates that she knows that in order to successfully blame someone else, she needs to be able to keep a straight face (not let on that she is lying). She also shows that she knows that in order for her story to hold, the culprit needs to be someone who has, in fact, had the opportunity. Further, she appears to also know that this kind of transgression requires some form of confrontation, which she carries out next time she sees her chosen culprit. As such she manages to create a credible story and to follow up on it, which is a highly complex task for a three-year old! Young children are faced with the complex task of figuring out when ‘pretend stories’ are acceptable (to adults) and when they are not, and if they get it wrong, to bear the consequences of being called a liar or deceitful. Adults around children could recognise these as competencies and act upon them.

Understanding this event this way has little to do with keeping control or winning power games. This literacy would acknowledge children’s competence in reading events and others’ actions, instead of their shortcomings. Yet, teachers feeling of need to keep control is something that can’t be overlooked. Teacher’s decision-making in an institutional context is like solving a Rubik’s cube: the daily life of the preschool resembles a combination puzzle with around 43 quintillion possible positions, with finding an optimal solution being complicated by the fact that every move affects the other parts and the following moves as well. Teachers make arrangements to cover the absence of other staff members because of sick leaves, they have conversations with other children, they supervise the yard to be sure that everyone is safe, they provide materials and equipment that children express they need, they have meetings with special education teachers, speech therapists, or with parents, they mind when they need to finish their meal so that kitchen staff are able to finish their shift on time, they give advice to substitutes and try to take into account wishes of parents. Like in solving a Rubik’s cube, it is impossible to engage in an act that would not have an influence on some other acts as well.

Engagement with children requires time to reflect and think through possible actions and also enough leeway to make situational changes to plans in the everyday life of kindergartens. In the busy lives of kindergartens this might not always be possible. What we need to think about is how to change the situation so that teachers are able to find time and possibilities to support children in learning to be social. In case those behaviours that we deem inappropriate occur, the first questions should be: What do children try to achieve with those acts? What competencies are they demonstrating and what are they in the process of learning?

 

Zsuzsa Millei is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Social Research, University of Tampere, Finland. She has widely published on discipline, including a book titled: Re-Theorizing Discipline in Education. This blog contains part of her article co-authored with Prof Eva Bendix Petersen published in the Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties journal[7].

Maiju Paananen is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Education, University of Tampere, Finland. She has done research on teachers’ decision making in preschools. Her dissertation Imaginaries of early childhood education in a transnational era of accountability illustrated how governance systems of early childhood education take part in formulating everyday life of preschools.

[1] Kronqvist, E. L. & Jokimies, J. (2008). Vanhemmat varhaiskasvatuksen laadun arvioijina: Tuloksia Vaikuta vanhempi-selvityksestä. Raportteja/Stakes: 22/2008.

 

Is there populism in Russia? by Marianna Muravyeva

Russian populism is something nobody denies, not critics of the current regime, not its supporters. Political leaders openly appeal to the ‘people’ as the group in whose interest they are acting. However, what is important to remember that a) it has been the case for quite some time; b) Russia did not truly engage into neoliberal ideology of any kind; and c) every political party in Russia, including the opposition, use populism as a viable ideology.

However, some scholars think that Putinism is an imperfect fit to populist ideologies as Vladimir Putin did not come into power thanks to his populist platform. He was ‘an ‘annointed’ successor to President Yeltsin who stepped down leaving him to rule the country. Putinism represents a platonic model of autocracy, in which populism an inherent part of the official discourse (Oliker 2017). At the same time, despite the circumstances of his coming to the office, Putin had to go through the elections, for which he came up with a populist program. Populism also became the ideology for his newly founded United Russia party.

What is populism a-la-Rus?

There are three components of the official populist discourse: 1) sovereign (democracy)/sovereignty to account for current relationships with others; 2) traditional values to deal with social problems; and 3) patriotism to provide for national unity.

Phillip Casula identifies several characteristics of Russian populism as main features of political discourse. Firstly, the populism comes ‘from above’ but not ‘from below’, it is not oppositional but systemic. Secondly, it relies heavily on being structured around a name (Putin or Navalny), which acts as a nodal point, sort of an empty signifier. Therefore, populism works as an attempt to split the political space into two camps ‘with us’ and ‘against us’ both in domestic and foreign policy fronts (Casula 2013, p. 7). The concept of sovereignty comes very handy here; it is interpreted not a positive creative concept for better territorial and political development, but as a negative concept of defence against all types of corruption. Traditional values and patriotism work along the same lines.

Depoliticization is a flip side of populism. In the Russian case, it introduces management as the key procedure in politics (Makarychev 2008). The leadership attempts to declare objective (national) interests such as economic efficiency (anti-sanctions) or demographic revival (anti-LGBTQI and pro-heterosexual family) as a rebuttal of any ideology. Political conflicts are presented as economic, technical questions. Thus, Russian obvious support for Trump has been often portrayed as a wish to have a ‘businessman’ not a ‘politician’ (such as Clinton or Obama) to deal with.

Parapolitics is another key feature of Russian populism. It aims at deantagonization of politics. At the inscription of oppositional demands and the cooption of dissidents. The United Russia party (and political leadership) use the following strategy: they take some pragmatic elements form the liberals (especially in economy), some from the left (wages, strong employee protection etc.), some from the nationalists (patriotic discourse), and some from conservators (traditional values and preservation of stability). It makes opposition parties redundant or pushes them to be even more populist as official leadership as in case of Navalny, who organised his campaign around the fight with corruption and exposing how corrupt Russian leaders are.

To conclude, current Russian populism is a ‘catch-all’ ideology. It is rather effective and resilient. It does work miracles both in within the country and abroad as Putin’s name figures in the speeches of both far-right and far-left populist parties. Answering the panel’s questions, though, in the Russian case, populism is not a reaction to neoliberal ideology but rather an effective management strategy that came about in the dire situation of economic, political and ideological transformation, which means that as far as works as a stabilising discourse it will continue to be employed by the political leadership. As to what happens next, much depends on the ability of neoliberal ideologies to self-reform and address those issues that ‘the masses’ see as a failure.

References:

Casula, P. (2013). Sovereign Democracy, Populism, and Depoliticization in Russia: Power and Discourse during Putin’s First Presidency. Problems of Post-Communism60(3), 3-15.

Makarychev, Andrey S. (2008). Politics, the State, and De-Politization. Problems of Post-Communism 55(5), 62–71.

Oliker, O. (2017). Putinism, Populism and the Defence of Liberal Democracy. Survival59(1), 7-24.

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Marianna Muravyeva is a Senior Research fellow of the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the University of Tampere and Professor of Law at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. Her research focuses on gender, criminology, family violence and human rights.

 

Neoliberalism and Populism in Turkey by Mahmut Mutman

The Turkish case shows that the universally accepted model of “neoliberal rule-populist response” is more complicated than it seems. The story of neoliberalism in Turkey goes as far back as 1980 military coup. The simple reason behind the coup was the impossibility of implementing the neoliberal economic program and austerity measures accepted in the same year under democratic rule. The military junta government repressed the left opposition and immediately put into implementation the neoliberal economic program by appointing a famous economist who was the behind the neoliberal economic program, Turgut Özal, as the minister responsible for economic affairs. The same neoliberal program was maintained by the democratically elected Motherland Party government, which was indeed established and led by Özal, following the end of military rule. It must be said that by the end of the 1980s neoliberalism became the doxa in Turkey. In its first phase, neoliberalism managed the transformation of “import substitutionism” into “export oriented” economy, liberalized finances and gave a green light to privatization. It was mainly already powerful Istanbul-based industrial bourgeoisie who benefitted from privatization, deregulation and export-oriented growth. It is important to underline that Özal’s Motherland Party which governed the initial process came to power by anti-elite, anti-bureaucratic populist themes—indeed populist themes which run well with the anti-state, pro-privatization discourse of neoliberalism.

This was followed by a long period of hegemonic crisis and fragmentation of power. By the beginning of 2000s however, a new, younger generation of Islamists (R. T. Erdogan and A. Gul) established the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came to power in the 2003 elections. Islamism emerged as a directly populist movement, which characteristically divided the political space into two, declaring an enemy camp in antagonism to “the true people.” Islamist populism is thus characterized by a strong version of “nativism,” i.e. a coding of native difference as Islamic vis a vis the authoritarian secularism followed by the Republican elite. But one should further keep in mind that, like in all populist movements, Islamism is also the expression of a class difference, given that the economically dominant class, i.e. Istanbul-based industrial bourgeoisie was actually created by the statist Republican elite by a program of capitalism from above. Islamist populism is therefore a construction of class difference as religious difference, indeed as a consolidated religious difference. Therefore it would be quite reasonable to consider Islamism as a populist response to a neoliberal program implemented from above. Indeed this “class” and “anti-elite” dimension gave Islamism a strong argument of victimization. But this is only part of the story, because Turkish Islamism has also very strictly and successfully followed the neoliberal economic program already re-formulated by the previous government following a short period of economic downfall in 2001. This brings us to a significant dimension of neoliberalism in peripheral spaces such as Turkey: its promotion of “small and medium size enterprises,” the SMEs. These are often critized for providing cheap (often family and informal) labor for the multinationals (such as Gap, Nike or Mac). Although this is true, they might also be part of a process of capital accumulation. Indeed it so happened in Turkey that a new group of Islamist large conglomerates emerged out of the immense support given to the SMEs especially by the AKP government (but already by previous governments as well). Known as “Anatolian Tigers,” this new group of Islamist businessmen was represented by AKP. Turkish Islamism can therefore be described as a new hegemonic bloc formed by the Anatolian Tigers with the poor working mass, which they lead ideologically and politically. Put in loosely Gramscian terms, it is the persuasion of the working mass by the new bosses into a new hegemonic system organized in and by Islamist ideology. But this populist version of neoliberal populism led by a “conservative democratic” politics gradually turned into an authoritarian, proto-fascist populism.

As soon as it came to power in 2003, the AKP government actually followed a series of democratic reforms, apart from its strictly neoliberal stand. It thus appeared, in its initial phase, as a pro-EU, reformist, conservative or Muslim democrat party, which had support from the liberal sections of the society as well as from EU (the number of awards Erdogan had from prestigious Western and European institutions would shock anyone now). Turkey was a model country until about 2010, a laboratory in which the so-called “compatibility of Islam with democracy” was successfully experimented. AKP made a qualitative jump in the relations with EU, reformed the banking sector and gave the central bank a leading role, and battled the corruption. It also made peace with the dissident Kurdish leadership and started a process of negotiation, however slow and problematic. It also made peace with the dissident Kurdish leadership and started a negotiation process, however slow and problematic. But these successful double syntheses of neoliberalism and populism, and of democracy and Islam, did not last long. Indeed it repeated the same pattern observed in other cases of neoliberal populism such as Argentine’s Menem and Peru’s Fujimori. AKP’s reformist line has never been entirely consistent. It battled corruption and favoritism insofar as the old elite is concerned but it also developed its own favoritism and its own version of “crony capitalism”, and it constantly avoided auditing institutions and mechanisms. On the political level, AKP was successful to the extent that it was capable of governing various freedoms emerged in parallel with the rapid development of capitalism, but it seemed to reach a point where it became impossible for it to govern freedoms any longer for both politico-economic (its own corrupt practices) and ideological (its conservative, authoritarian and nationalist roots) reasons. Hence we witnessed, in the case of Turkey, a swift turn into a violent, repressive form of authoritarian populism and crony capitalism.

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Mahmut Mutman teaches critical theory, media and cultural studies in the Department of Cinema and Television and is the coordinator of the M.A. Program in Cultural Studies at Istanbul Sehir University. He is the author of The Politics of Writing Islam: Voicing Difference; he has co-edited a special issue of Inscriptions titled “Orientalism and Cultural Differences” and a collection on Orientalism, Hegemony and Cultural Difference (in Turkish) as well as several articles on orientalism, nationalism, postmodernism, and film and media in Cultural Critique, Postmodern Culture, New Formations, Rethinking Marxism, Anthropological Theory, Radical Philosophy, Third Text and Toplum ve Bilim.