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Understanding modern Turkey: A keynote address by Director Reşat Kasaba

May 18, 2016

Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba, an expert on Turkey, spoke to students, faculty and members of the public a keynote lecture at Boston University for its 20th Anniversary Lecture of the Campagna-Kerven Series on Modern Turkey: “Impossible Journeys from Past to Future and Back Again” on April 20.

Kasaba began his talk with a focus on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the divisive nature of his ongoing ruling.

According to Kasaba, many of the policies and rhetoric we are currently witnessing in Turkey reflect a cyclical transformative period. Since Turkey is not experiencing a natural linear path to modernity, setbacks expressed in the form of rising nationalist and religious sentiments should not be surprising.

He underscored that throughout Turkey’s history, state formation and development progressed and contracted unevenly and in a manner that has always been contentious.

Kasaba also discussed common misconceptions in Turkey: “Throughout the history of the Ottoman Empire it was not a very centralized political system, it was diverse, uneven, we are not talking about equal treatment under the law, but there were a lot of people of many ethnicities and religions that lived in these lands for many, many years due to the empire’s pragmatic nature.”

During the Q&A Prof. Kasaba was asked which of Turkey’s institutions should be most important to improve to create any kind of change. He responded that in the long term, education is the most important component, how you train people and for what, as an example learning from certain South Asian countries. In the shorter term, he noted, improving the state’s function and strengthening the judiciary are key.

The Campagna-Kerven Lecture series is an initiative designed to highlight multidisciplinary experts including scholars, artists, and public intellectuals speak on a rich variety of themes to foster informed public debate on questions of the day and improve the public’s knowledge of Turkish society and politics.

Click here to view the full talk