Original Contribution by Gurur ERTEM / Reinpreted by Euna LEE
began thinking about hope on January 11th 2016, when a group of scholars representing Academics for Peace held a press conference to read the petition, “We
Will Not be a Party to this Crime.” The statement expressed academics’ worries about Turkish government E
’s security operations against the youth movement L
of the armed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in the southeastern cities of Turkey. They
were concerned about the devastating impact the military involvement had on the region’s civilian population.¹
The petition also called for the resumption of peace negotiations with the PKK. In reaction, the President of the Turkish State deemed these academics “pseudo-intellectuals,” “traitors,” and “terrorist-aides.” ² On January 13, 2016, an extreme nationalist/convicted criminal threatened the academics in a message posted on his website: “We
will spill your blood in streams, and we
will take a shower in your blood T
As I’m composing this text, I read that the indictment against the Academics for Peace has become official. The signatories face charges of seven and a half years imprisonment under Article 7 (2) of the Turkish Anti-Terror Act for “propaganda for terrorism.” This afternoon, the moment I stepped into the building where my office is, I overheard an exchange between two men who I think are shop owners downstairs:
ⓡ Article 7 (2) of Turkey’s Anti-Terrorism Law: prohibits “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”. Is a vague and overly-broad article with no explicit requirement for propaganda to advocate violent criminal methods. It has been used repeatedly to prosecute the expression of non-violent opinions.
ⓡ Political Freedom: 5/7 https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/turkeys-presidential-dictatorship/
fig.1 Muslims celebrating Hagia Sofia’s re-conversion into a mosque, Diego Cupolo/PA, OpenDemocracy
“I was at dinner with Sedat Peker.”
“I wish you sent him my greetings.”
ⓞ I guess at first she is contextualizing her thoughts
ⓞ Quite hard to understand without the turkish political background understanding ☹ ➞ sad but true
ⓡ Sedat Peker: is a convicted Turkish criminal leader. He is also known for his political views that are based on Pan-Turkism.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedat_Peker
ⓡ Pan-Turkism is a movement which emerged during the 1880s among Turkic intellectuals of the Russian region of Shirvan (now central Azerbaijan) and the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey), with its aim being the cultural and political unification of all Turkic peoples. Pan-Turkism is often perceived as a new form of Turkish imperial ambition. Some view the Young Turk leaders who saw pan-Turkist ideology as a way to reclaim the prestige of the Ottoman Empire as racist and chauvinistic.
ⓥ Deem: consider
ⓥ Pseudo-intellectuals: fake-intellectuals
ⓥ Depict: describe
Sedat Peker is the name of the nationalist mafia boss who had threatened the academics. I thought about the current Istanbul Biennial organized around the theme “A Good Neighbor.” It is a pity that local issues such as living with neighbors who want to “take a shower in your blood” were missing from there.
I began taking hope seriously on July 16, 2016, the night of the “coup attempt” against President Erdoğan. The public still doesn’t know what exactly happened on that night. Perhaps, hope was one of the least appropriate words to depict the mood of the day in a context where “shit had hit the fan.” (I’m sorry I lack more elegant terms to describe that night and what followed).⁴ Perhaps, it was because, as the visionary writer John Berger once wrote: “hope is something that occurs in very dark moments. It is like a flame in the darkness; it isn’t like a confidence and a promise.”
ⓞ Origin of word Hope. Maybe we can find some analogies in all the words' origins. Which of them come from some primitive needs like ATATA?
ⓞ Hope as something which is always growing/emerging from a terrified/bad moment? More than an illusion or plan to make? ➞ Yes! like Pandora could finally find the hope at the very bottom of her chaotic box ➞ cool image ☺
ⓥ shit had hit the fan: horrible disaster ➞ ahahah thanks finally I got it!
fig.2 shit had hit the fan
On November 4th, 2016, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chairs of the HDP (The People’s Democratic Party), ⁵ were imprisoned. Five days later, the world woke up to the results of the US Presidential election, which was not surprising at all for us
mortals located somewhere near the Middle East. I
began to compile obsessively a bibliography on hope⁶ - a “Hope Syllabus” of sorts - as a response to the numerous ‘Trump Syllabi’ that started circulating online P
among academic circles.⁷ So, why “hope,” and why now? How can we
release hope from Pandora’s jar? How can we
even begin talking about hope when progressive mobilizations are crushed by sheer force before they
find the opportunity to grow into fully-fledged social movements? What resources and visions can hope offer where an economic logic has become the overarching trope to measure happiness and success? How could hope guide us
when access to arms is as easy as popcorn? Can hope find the ground to take root and flourish in times of market fundamentalism? What could hope mean when governments and their media extensions are spreading lies, deceptions, and jet-black propaganda? Can hope beat the growing cynicism aggravated by distrust in politics? In brief, are there any reasons to be hopeful despite the evidence? I
don’t expect anyone to be able to answer these questions. I
definitely can’t. I
can only offer preliminary remarks and suggest some modest beginnings to rekindle hope by reflecting on some readings I
’ ve assigned myself
as part of the “Hope Syllabus” I
’ ve been compiling for an ongoing project I
tentatively titled as “A Sociology of Hope.” I
am thankful that Words for the Future gives me
the opportunity to pin down in some form my many scattered, contradictory, and whirling thoughts on hope.
ⓡ According to Wiki, From 2013 to 2015, the HDP participated in peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The ruling AKP accuses the HDP of having direct links with the PKK.
ⓞ Which was not surprising at all for us mortals located somewhere near the Middle East. Why?? Are there any surprising results of election? ➞ I would say cause it’s not a big surprise ending up with bad leaders/politics, is it? ➞ Probably due to the incessant uprising of right-wing or populists parties? Or in general, relating to a wide-spreading politics that put economics behind earth-care? Tracing and redefining borders while not being concerned about climate change?
ⓥ sheer: pure
ⓥ aggravate: worsen
ⓥ rekindle: recall, reawaken
In what follows, in dialogue with Giorgio Agamben’s work, I
argue that if we
are true contemporaries, our task is to see in the dark and make hope accessible P
again. Then, I
briefly review Chantal Mouffe’s ideas on radical democracy P E
to discuss how the image of a “democracy to come” is connected with the notion of hope as an engagement with the world instead of a cynical withdrawal from it
regardless of expectations about final results or outcomes. I
conclude by reflecting on how critical social thought and the arts could contribute to new social imaginaries by paying attention to “islands of hope” in the life worlds of our contemporaries.
ⓞ Hope as a way to engage people to build a “democracy to come” - without expectations for the result. It’s an ongoing process.
ⓞ Do islands of hope mean subjetive thinking about hope? Subjective thinking and also act-making. Regarding our future; in which we use hope as a light to help us move inside. ➞ I think, it’s just a metaphoric word! For saying a small part of the world in plenty of darkness ➞ Yeess
ⓞ Nowadays, for me, there are a lack of terms to actually define overated/cliche words such as hope... ➞ Agree! The actual situation is too unpreditable ☹
ⓡ Chantal Mouffe Radical Democracy https://www.e-ir.info/2013/02/26/radical-democracy-in-contemporary-times/
The Contemporaneity of “Hope”In the essay “What is the Contemporary?” Agamben describes contemporaneity not as an epochal marker but as a particular relationship with one’s time. It is defined by an experience of profound dissonance. This dissonance plays out at different levels in his argument. First, it entails seeing the darkness in the present without being blinded by its lights while at the same time perceiving in this darkness a light that strives but can not yet reach us. Nobody can deny that we’ re going through some dark times; it’s become all we perceive and talk about lately. Hope—as an idea, verb, action, or attitude—rings out of tune with the reality of the present. But, if we follow Agamben’s reasoning, the perception of darkness and hopelessness would not suffice to qualify us as “true contemporaries.” What we need, then, is to find ways of seeing in the dark⁸.
Second level of dissonance Agamben evokes is related to history and memory. The non-coincidence with one’s time does not mean the contemporary is nostalgic or utopian; she
is aware of her entanglement in a particular time yet seeks to bring a certain historical sensibility to it
. Echoing Walter Benjamin’s conception of time as heterogeneous, Agamben argues that being contemporary means putting to work a particular relationship among different times: citing, recycling, making relevant again moments from the past L
, revitalizing that which is declared as lost to history.
ⓞ Find the ways in the darkness through history! ➞ yes, by remembering and being aware of the past ➞ The past is part of the present.
ⓞ In which point of the human development have we started “asking” for more than is needed? How do we define the progress? The continuos improvement of human' knowledge? Also, when, in order to supply while being fed by population’s ever-changing needs, did we destroy the world?
ⓞ I totally agree with this philosophy of contemporaneity. Only in the case of climate change, we don’t have a past example to cite, recycle or to make relavant. It’s all about the present and future considerations.
Agamben’s observations about historicity are especially relevant regarding hope. As many other writers and thinkers have noted, hopelessness and its cognates such as despair and cynicism are very much linked to amnesia. As Henry A. Giroux argues in The Violence of Organized Forgetting, under the conditions of neoliberalism, militarization, securitization, and the colonization of life worlds by the economistic logic, forms of historical, political M E P
, and moral forgetting are not only willfully practiced but also celebrated⁹. Mainstream media M U
media’s approach to the news and violence as entertainment exploits our “negativity bias” ¹⁰
and makes us
lose track of hopeful moments and promising social movements. Memory has become particularly threatening because it
offers the potential to recover the promise of lost legacies of resistance. The essayist and activist Rebecca Solnit underscores the strong relation between hope and remembrance. As she
writes in Hope in the Dark, a full engagement with the world requires seeing not only the rise of extreme inequality and political and ecological disasters; but also remembering victories such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Edward Snowden¹¹
. To Solnit’s list of positives I
would add the post-Gezi HDP “victory” in the June 7, 2015 elections in Turkey and the Bernie Sanders campaign in the US. Without the memory of these achievements we
can indeed only despair.
ⓥ willfully: on purpose
ⓞ Mainstream media ➞ as mechanisims of forgetting ➞ Yes, but on purpose or by accident? ➞ difficult to state it, but i would say sometimes on purpuse, in order to have same (bad) results, as the case of the presidential results for example. what’s your position? ➞ Yes, not every time, but on purpose sometimes. Like, the news talks a lot about a rocket launch (only the fact, without its context) of N.Korea before election, so that the constituents hesitate a political change ➞ Yes, and also the media doesn’t tend to talk much about what went wrong in the past with political decisions if that doesn’t work for a specific group of politics, I mean, they don’t act as a tool for remembrance, they usually avoid past facts. I would say they work as a mechanism of forgetting. In fact, accumulating non-important news quickly is for me another process of forgetting, isn’t it? ➞ Yes yes, I got what you say ☺ ➞ true, the structure of news itself has that characteristic. We can say, “that’s the reason why we need a hyperlink!” ➞ what do you mean? ➞ I think, if we have some kind of system to see the relationship with other incidents (maybe through the hyperlink), we can easily find the hope! ➞ True!
Although the media continually hype the “migration crisis” and “post-truth” disguising the fact there is nothing so new about them
does not report on the acts of resistance taking place every day. Even when the media represent them
convey these events T
as though the activists and struggles come out of nowhere. For instance, as Stephen Zunes illuminates, the Arab Uprisings were the culmination of slow yet persistent work of activists¹²
. Likewise, although it
became a social reality larger than the sum of its constituents, the Gezi Uprising was the culmination of earlier local movements such as the Taksim Solidarity, LGBTQ T
, environmental movements, among numerous others A
. These examples ascertain that little efforts do add up even if they
seem insignificant. We
must be willing to come to terms with the fact that we
may not see the ‘results’ of our work in our lifetime. In that sense, being hopeful entails embracing A T O uncertainty U L
, contingency, and a non-linear understanding of history. We
can begin to cultivate R E A L
hope when we
separate the process from the outcome. In that regard, hope is similar to the creative process.¹³
In a project-driven world where one’s sense of worth depends on “Likes” and constant approval from the outside, focusing on one’s actions for their own sake seems to have become passé. But, I
contend that if we
could focus more on the intrinsic value of our work instead of measurable outcomes, we
could find hope and meaning in the journey itself.
ⓞ The contemporary sense of hope in those terms is to put different visions of hope in a space to talk to each other in some sort of “genealogy” of hope? Hope chatting? I mean, how hope envisions itself could interact with each other through time and context, it actually relates a lot with Atata. don’t you think? in terms of giving and reciving? ➞ Agree, like we find a soultion (a hope) from the ancient seed ➞ Absolutely! And in general from primitive life and needs, happyness was strictly related to needs fulfillment, rather than to anything additional than we really need, like today. ➞ Well, for me Atata means being in relation to others by giving and reciving something. Not as a fact of an economic transaction, but more as a natural flow. So in this case putting together differents visions of hope, the ones that went through history and the ones than came to each other in each mind as “islands of hope”, will explore different inter-relational ways of hope that would come as solutions, outputs, ideas and so on. Somehow the Atata of hope becomes an awareness of the otherness.
ⓡ Taksim Solidarity: It voices a yearning for a greener, more liveable and democratic city and country and is adamant about continuing the struggle for the preservation of Gezi Park and Taksim Square and ensuring that those responsible for police violence are held accountable. (https://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/29192)
fig.3 Taksim Solidarity: We are going to challenge all of our colors for our future, our children
ⓞ If democracy is an ideal = What kind of democracy could we design? In my ideal I want schools, (free) hospitals, libraries and some kind of democratic media (these are re-inventions of existing institutional models).
ⓞ Camilo, however, suggests a different economic model; a change of daily routines....
ⓞ What bridges can be built between “islands of hope” / What are the processes that are used on these “islands of hope?”
ⓞ Camilo: Collaborativist; to collaborate with those who share your same ideas, but also, being open to working with others ideas, projects and beliefs. And that’s in other words, accepting and converging with the otherness as well. ➞ Yes, but remember C. Mouffe suggests that a good, functioning democracy must have “conflict and disagreement” also. But in my ideal, less than we currently have ☺ ➞ Yes, antithetic forces are necessary... ☺
ⓞ For me, democratic food market; like everyone can get true nutritious information (is the harm of milk and the meat true or just a city myth?)
ⓞ I would like a repair and reuse culture.!! NOTE: this might be a good question (what “island of hope” would you make) for the other groups when it comes to relating the different texts to each other.
ⓞ Memory as a key to Hope. Remembrance > Remembering victories (what went well) in order to manage better through the dark as Agamen says? ➞ For Covid situation (teleworking and limited trip..), we can’t find a victory in anywhere! So desperate. ➞ it’s true, but we do have past pandemic experiences, of course in a different context with other difficulties.
ⓞ Embrace the uncertainty of hope as a result/definition? ➞ it echoes me the “Otherness” text. Both require the act of being open and the patient. ➞ Yesss, in fact this a key connection point. ➞ Good! Can you say more about this connection? ➞ Probably having in mind that the recognition of the other takes time, as well as embracing the uncertainty. Becoming aware of the blurred future in terms of hope. Otherness text invites us to approach the world in a openminded manner.
ⓥ constituents: voter
ⓥ intrinsic: original, primary
Radical Politics and Social Hope
Over a series works since the mid-1980s, Chantal Mouffe has challenged existing notions of the “political” and called for reviving the idea of “radical democracy.” Drawing on Gramsci’s theoretizations of hegemony, Mouffe places conflict and disagreement, rather than consensus and finality, at the center of her analysis. While “politics” for Mouffe refers to the set of practices and institutions through which a society is created and governed, the “political” entails the ineradicable dimension of antagonism in any given social order. We
are no longer able to think “politically” due to the uncontested hegemony of liberalism where the dominant tendency is a rationalist and individualist approach that is unable to come to terms with the pluralistic and conflict-ridden nature of the social world. This results in what Mouffe calls “the post-political condition.” The central question of democracy can not be posed unless one takes into consideration this antagonistic dimension. The question is not how to negotiate a compromise among competing interests, nor is it
how to reach a rational, fully inclusive consensus. What democracy requires is not overcoming the us/them distinction of antagonism, but drawing this distinction in such a way that is compatible with the recognition of pluralism L O P
. In other words, the question is how can we
institute a democracy that acknowledges the ineradicable dimension of conflict, yet be able to establish a pluralist public space in which these opposing forces can meet in a nonviolent way. For Mouffe, this entails transforming antagonism to “agonism”¹⁴
means instituting a situation where opposing political subjects recognize the legitimacy of their opponent, who is now an adversary rather than an enemy, although no rational consensus or a final agreement can be reached.
ⓞ !!! The central question of democracy can not be posed unless one takes into consideration this antagonistic dimension.!!! (words made bold by steve)
ⓞ We should acknowledge the otherness and not judge others. Like in Otherness, Dutch mom doesn’t need to judge Pirahas mom who left her child to play with a knife. ➞ yes and also in those words having a different sense of conflict, giving them the name of an adversary rather than enemy is being aware of the differences. And that’s the otherness consciousness. ➞ The otherness, in this case, the adversaries, must be recognized as a fundamental part of the whole demochratic system. The purpose shouldn’t be only the final aggreement, but the clear representation of all needs and thoughts.
ⓥ ineradicable: unable to be destroyed
ⓥ come to terms with: to resolve a conflict with, to accept sth painful
Another crucial dimension in Mouffe’s understanding of the political is “hegemony.” Every social order is a hegemonic one established by a series of practices and institutions within a context of contingency. In other words, every order is a temporary and precarious articulation. What is considered at a given moment as ‘natural’ or as ‘common sense R P
’ is the result of sedimented historical practices based on the exclusion of other possibilities that can be reactivated in different times and places when conditions are ripe. That is, every hegemonic order can be challenged by counterhegemonic practices that will attempt to disarticulate the existing order to install another form of hegemony.
ⓞ Order as a something only temporary.
ⓥ contigency: possible event
It may not be fair to chop a complex argument into a bite-size portion, but for this essay I take the liberty to summarize Mouffe’s concept of radical democracy as the “impossibility of democracy.” It means that a genuinely pluralistic democracy is something that can never be completely fulfilled (if it is to remain pluralistic at all). That is, if everyone were to agree on a given order it would not be pluralistic in the first place; there wouldn’t be any differences. This would culminate in a static situation that could even bring about a totalitarian society. Nevertheless, although it’s not going to be completely realized, it will always remain as a process that we work towards. Recognizing the contingent nature of any given order also makes it possible not to abandon hope since if there is no final destination, there is no need to despair. Laclau and Mouffe’s ideas about radical democracy as “a project without an end” resonate with the idea of hope: Hope as embracing contingency and uncertainty in our political struggles, without the expectation of specific outcomes or a final destination.
ⓥ culminate in: end with a particular result
In the wake of the Jörg Haider movement in Austria, a right-wing mobilization against the enlargement of the EU to include its Muslim neighbors, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe addressed the concept of hope and its relation to passions and politics in a more direct manner¹⁵
argued that it
is imperative to give due credit to the importance of symbols—material and immaterial representations that evoke certain meanings and emotions such as a flag, a song, a style of speaking, etc.— in the construction of human subjectivity L U A
and political identities. They
proposed the term “passion” to refer to an array of affective forces (such as desires, fantasies, dreams, and aspirations) that can not be reduced to economic self-interest or rational pursuits. One of the most critical shortcomings of the political discourse of the Left has been its assumption that human beings are rational creatures and its lack of understanding the role of passions in the neoliberal imaginary, as Laclau and Mouffe argue. It
’s astounding how the Left has been putting the rationality of human beings at the center of arguments against, for instance, racism and xenophobia, without considering the role of passions as motivating forces. For instance, as I
’m writing this text, the world is “surprised” by yet another election result –the German elections of September 24, 2017, when the radical right wing AfD entered the parliament as the third largest party. I
agree with Mouffe that as long as we
keep fighting racism, xenophobia, and nationalism on rationalistic and moralistic grounds, the Left will be facing more of such “surprises.” Instead of focusing on specific social and economic conditions that are at the origin of racist articulations, the Left has been addressing it
with a moralistic discourse or with reference to abstract universal principles (i.e. about human rights). Some even use scientific arguments based on evidence to prove that race doesn’t exist; as though people are going to stop being racist once they
become aware of this information.
ⓡ Jörg Haider: leader of The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)
ⓡ Europe’s far-right vows to push referendum on Turkey’s EU accession: https://www.dw.com/en/europes-far-right-vows-to-push-referendum-on-turkeys-eu-accession/a-6142752
ⓡ the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has harvested more than 20 % of the vote by brandishing the spectre of “an invasion” of Turkish migrants who would threaten “the social peace.”, seems FPÖ always has been infriendly https://voxeurop.eu/en/the-turk-austrias-favorite-whipping-boy/
fig.4 Heinz-Christian Strache (2nd from left) of the far-right FPÖ leads an anti-Muslim rally in Belgium, Voxeurop
At the same time, as Laclau and Mouffe contend, hope is also an ingrained part of any social and political struggle. Nonetheless, it
can be mobilized in very different and oppositional ways. When the party system E
of representative democracy fails to provide vehicles to articulate demands and hopes, there will be other affects that are going to be activated, and hopes will be channeled to “alt-right” movements and religious fundamentalisms, Laclau and Mouffe suggest. However, I
argue that it
not hope what the right-wing mobilizes. Even if it
is hope, it
is an “anti-social kind of hope” as the historian Ronald Aronson has recently put it¹⁶
rather think that it
is not hope but the human inclination for “illusion O U
” that the right-wing exploits. During the Gezi protests in June 2013, I
would be a futile effort to appeal to reason to explain Erdoğan supporters what the protests meant for the participants. It
was not a “coupt attempt,” or a riot provoked by “foreign spies.” Dialogue is possible if all sides share at least a square millimeter of common ground, but this was far from the case. On June 1, 2013, the Prime Minister and the pro-government media started to circulate a blatant lie, now known as the “Kabataş lie.” Allegedly, a group of topless male Gezi protesters clad in black skinny leather pants attacked a woman in headscarf across the busy Kabataş Port (!) I
don’t think even Erdoğan supporters believed it
, but what was most troubling is that it
did not matter whether it
was true or not. The facts were irrelevant: the anti-Gezi camp wanted to believe it
became imperative for me
to revisit the social psychology literature as mere sociological analysis and political interpretations failed to come to terms with the phenomenon. I
found out Freud had a concept for it
ⓥ Alt-right: The alt-right, an abbreviation of alternative right, is a loosely connected far-right, white nationalist movement based in the United States. (according to Wikipedia)
ⓥ riot: behave violently in a public place
ⓞ The right-wing’s fear of embracing the outside makes people become blind and disappointed for future. > but, this fear comes from the illusion (maybe true, maybe not) > + According to Freud, this illusion depends on how we draw it
Although Freud’s concept of “illusion” is mostly about religion, it
’s also a useful concept to understand the power of current political rhetoric. In everyday parlance, we
understand illusions as optical distortions or false beliefs. Departing from this view, Freud argues illusions are beliefs we
adopt because we
to be true. For Freud illusions can be either true or false; what matters is not their veracity or congruence¹⁷
with reality but their psychological causes. Religious beliefs fulfill the deeply entrenched, urgent wishes of human beings. As inherently fragile, vulnerable creatures people hold on to religious beliefs as an antidote to their helplessness¹⁸
. Granted our psychological inclination for seeking a source of power for protection, it
not surprising that the right-wing discourse stokes feelings of helplessness and fear continuously and strives to infantilize populations, rendering people susceptible to political illusions.¹⁹
As the philosopher of psychology David Livingston Smith asserts, the appeal of Trump²⁰
(and other elected demagogues across the world) as well as the denial that he
could win the elections come from this same psychological source, namely, Freud’s concept of illusion²¹
suffer from an illusion when we
believe something is the case just because we
to be so. In other words, illusions have right-wing and left-wing variants, and one could say the overblown confidence in the hegemony of reason has been the illusion of the Left.
ⓞ Hegemony and illusion relate for me because hegemony is ideological, meaning that it is invisible, it is an expression of ideology which has been normalised.
ⓞ Illusion in religion in otherness! The author said “Everyone needed Jesus and if they didn’t believe in him, they were deservedly going to eternal torment.”
ⓥ veracity: accurancy
ⓥ congruence: balance
ⓥ infantilize: treat like a child
Critical Social Thought, Art, and Hope
As someone who traverses the social sciences and the arts, I
observe both fields are practicing a critical way of thinking that exposes the contingent nature of the way things are, and reveal that nothing is inevitable.²²
However, at the same time, by focusing only on the darkness of the times—as it
has become common practice lately when, for instance, a public symposium on current issues in the contemporary dance field becomes a collective whining session—I wonder if we
may be contributing to the aggravation of cynicism that has become symptomatic of our epoch. Are we
, perhaps, equating adopting a hopeless position with being intellectually profound as the anthropologist Michael Taussig once remarked?
If critical social thought is to remain committed to the ethos of not only describing and analyzing the world but also contributing to making it
a better place, it
could be supplemented with studies that underscore how a better world might be already among us
would require an empirical sensibility—a documentary and ethnographic approach of sorts—that pay attention to the moments when “islands of hope” are established and the social conditions that make their emergence possible.²³
One could pay attention to the overlooked, quiet, and hopeful developments that may help us
to carve spaces where the imagination is not colonized by the neoliberal, nationalist, and militarist siege. That is, for a non-cynical social and artistic inquiry, one could explore how communities E A
make sense of their experiences and come to terms with trauma and defeat. These developments may not necessarily be present in the art world, but could offer insights to it
. Sometimes communities, through mobilizing their self-resources, provide more meaningful interpretations T M O
and creative coping strategies M
than the art world’s handling of these issues. It
is necessary for us
to understand how, despite the direst of circumstances, people can still find meaning and purpose in their lives. It
is essential to explore these issues not only in a theoretical manner but through an empirical sensibility: by deploying ethnographic modes of research, paying close attention to the life worlds of our contemporaries to explore their intellectual, practical, imaginative, and affective strategies to make lives livable. Correspondingly, one could focus on the therapeutic and redeeming dimensions L
of art as equally crucial to its function as social critique. For this, one could pay more attention to the significant role of poeisis - the creative act that affirms our humanity and dignity — ²⁴
to rework trauma into symbolic forms.
ⓥ empirical: practical, not theorical
One such endeavor I
came across is the storytelling movement I
observed in Turkey.²⁵
More and more people have taken up storytelling, and more and more national and international organizations are popping up. The first national storytelling conference took place last May at Yildiz University. I
was struck when I
went there to understand what was going on. People from all scales of the political spectrum were sitting in sort of an “assembly of fairy tales.” It
has also struck me
that while some journalists, the “truth tellers” are being imprisoned; imprisoned politicians are turning into storytellers, finding solace in giving form to their experiences through poeisis. Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), penned three short stories while in prison since last November, which, I
think are quite successful from a literary point of view. Alongside other essays and additional short stories, Demirtaş’s prison writings culminated in the recent publication Seher (September 2017) ²⁶
. The choice of the book’s title is also telling: In Turkish “Seher” means the period just before dawn when the night begins to change into day.
ⓥ endeavor: attempt, effort
In The Human Condition the political philosopher Hannah Arendt addresses the question of how storytelling speaks to the struggle to exist as one among many; preserving one’s unique identity P
, while at the same time fulfilling one’s obligations as a citizen in a new home country. Much of she
wrote after she
went to the US in 1941 as a refugee bears the mark of her experience of displacement and loss. And it
’s at this time when she
offers invaluable insights into the (almost) universal impulse to translate overwhelming personal and social experiences into forms that can be voiced and reworked in the company of others. It
was, perhaps, Walter Benjamin who first detected the demise of the art of storytelling as a symptom of the loss of the value of experience. In his 1936 essay “The Storyteller” he
reflects on the role of storytelling in community building and the implications of its decline. He
observes that with the emergence of newspapers and the journalistic jargon, people stopped listening to stories but began receiving the news. With the news, any event already comes with some explanation. With the news and our timelines, explanation and commentary replaced assimilating, interpreting, understanding. Connections get lost, leading to a kind of amnesia, which leads, in turn, to pessimism and cynicism, because it
also makes us
lose track of hopeful moments, struggles, and victories. The power of the story is to survive beyond its moment and to connect the dots, redeeming the past. It
pays respect and shows responsibility A
to different temporalities and publics, that of the past and the future as well as today’s.
ⓥ demise: end, death
Here, I’m not making a case for going back to narrative forms in performance or a call for storytelling above and beyond any other forms. The emphasis here is more on storytelling as an example of a social act of poeisis rather than the product of narrative activity. The critical question for me today is can artists, curators, and social thinkers bring to life the stories that are waiting to be told? Sometimes, instead of focusing on how to increase visitors to our venues, it could be more rewarding to take our imagination to go visiting. I conclude my reflections on hope with a quote from Arundathi Roy:
“Writers imagine that they
cull stories from the world. I
’m beginning to believe vanity makes them
think so. That it
actually the other way around. Stories cull writers from the world. Stories reveal themselves
. The public narrative, the private narrative—they colonize us
insist on being told.” ²⁷
I leave it to you for now to imagine the shapes it could take.
ⓞ The recovery of the humanity helps to approach to hope > Like by storytelling (especially, the writer mentions it as art), which is warmer and left us to think > Connected to idea of ATATA, let’s refine nature
fig.5 Pandora, Lawrence Alma-Tadema
is a social scientist and performance studies scholar specializing in the sociology of culture and the arts; and the body and social theory. she is the founding co-director of iDANS (Istanbul) where she has been responsible for curatorial research and publications. Being immersed in the contemporary dance culture for (almost) two decades as dancer, dramaturge, programmer, and scholar, she edited several books on the topic such as Dance on Time (2010); Solo? in Contemporary Dance (2008), and Yirminci Yüzyılda Dans Sanatı (2007). Ertem specialized in the sociology of culture and arts; the body and social theory; and critical theory. She obtained her Ph.D. in Sociology from The New School for Social Research (New York) in 2016. Her current research focuses on cultures of protest and the body and political psychology. Ertem is selected as an Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellow in the Humanities for the period 2017-2019.
Abstract of web project
Fascinated by “recognition of pluralism”, one of the solutions to approach Hope, 👩🏻🔧 made this website where you can experience this solution. To Ertem’s voice, the XPUB students add their own voices and further, various anonymous x (maybe you, your neighbours or a dinosaur) participate in this digital journey.
Adorno, Theodor W. 1991 . “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda.” In The Culture Industry, edited by J. M. Bernstein. London: Routledge.
Ertem, Gurur. 2017. “Gezi Uprising: Performative Democracy and Politics of the Body in an Extended Space of Appearance.” In Media Practices, Social Movements, and Performativity: Transdisciplinary Approaches, edited by Margreth Lünenborg, Susanne Foellmer, Christoph Raetzsch, pp. 81-99. London: Routledge.
Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 2014 (1987). Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics. London: Verso.
Loeb, Paul Rogat. 2014. “The Real Rosa Parks.” In The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. New York: Basic Books. iBook.
Mills, C.Wright. 2000 . The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Money-Kyrle, Roger. 1978. “The Psychology of Propaganda,” In The Collected Papers of Roger Money-Kyrle, edited by Strath Tay, 165-66. Perthshire: The Clunie Press.
Sinclair, Jennifer. 2008. “Towards an Affirmative Sociology: The Role of Hope in Making a Better World.” Paper presented at TASA Sociologists Conference, August 2008.
Smith, David Livingstone. 2017. “Confessions of a Cassandra.” Philosophy Talk, January 31, 2017.
Zinn, Howard. 2014. “Optimism of Uncertainty.” In The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. New York: Basic Books. iBook.
1. 1,128 academics from 89 universities in Turkey, and over 355 academics and researchers from abroad including some well-known figures such as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, and David Harvey signed the petition. For the full text of the declaration and more information about Academics for Peace see the website: (https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/node/63)
2. For excerpts of Erdogan’s speech in reaction to the Academics for Peace Petition see (in Turkish): Merkezi, Haber. "Erdoğan'dan Akademisyenlere: Ey Aydın Müsveddeleri." Bianet - Bagimsiz Iletisim Agi. January 12, 2016. Accessed November 2017.(http://bit.ly/2zkwpdT)
3. ”Notorious criminal threatens academics calling for peace in Turkey's southeast." Hürriyet Daily News. January 13, 2016. Accessed November 2017. (http://bit.ly/2yww6gX)
4. The military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 allowed the government to declare the state of emergency and rule the country by executive degrees, further crushing the opposition M, outlawing associational activities, and the rights of assembly. Hundreds of thousands of academics, public sectors workers, journalists, and teachers were purged. For more information see the website “Turkey Purge,” which is currently inaccessible from Turkey: (https://turkeypurge.com/)
5. HDP is the third largest party in the Turkish Parliament representing some 13% of the electorate.
6. A copy of this bibliography can be found here: (http://www.gururertem.info/syllabi.html)
7. See for instance, the “Trump 101” published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on June 19, 2016. (http://www.chronicle.com/article/Trump-Syllabus/236824/) A group of African American intellectuals criticized the “Trump 101” syllabus for its omission of issues regarding racial and gender equalities and referred to it “as white as the man himself.” Subsequently they published an amended version of the syllabus entitled “Trump 2.0” (http://www.publicbooks.org/trump-syllabus-2-0/)
8. Agamben, Giorgio. 2009. “What is the Contemporary?” In What is an Apparatus?: and Other Essays. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
9. Giroux, Henry A. 2014. The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America's Disimagination Machine. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
10. Negativity bias refers to the asymmetrical way we perceive negative experiences versus positive ones, an evolutionary trait we developed for survival. Negative experiences, events, and images exert a stronger and lasting impact on us than positive experiences of the same magnitude.
11. Solnit, Rebecca. 2016. Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. Chicago, Ill: Haymarket Books. iBook.
12. Zunes, Stephen. 2014. “Arab Revolutions.” In The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. New York: Basic Books. iBook.
13. One could argue that the creative process and artistic production are not exempt from this instrumental logic that focuses on measurable outcomes. While I agree with this observation, with the “creative process” I use here I mean a more ‘old-fashioned’ understanding of the term.
14. Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. 2002. “Hope, Passion, Politics.” In Hope: New Philosophies for Change, edited by Mary Zournazi, 122-148. Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press Australia.
16. Aronson, Ronald. 2017. We: Reviving Social Hope. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
17. Freud, Sigmund. 1964. “The Future of an Illusion,” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. 21, edited by James Stratchey. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
18. Smith, David Livingstone. 2017. “Confessions of a Cassandra.” Philosophy Talk, January 31, 2017.
19. For an astute empirical analysis of the phenomenon in Nazi speech rallies, see Roger Money-Kyrle’s Psychology of Propaganda (1941). Also see Theodor W. Adorno’s 1951 essay “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda.”
20. Smith, David Livingstone. 2016. “The Politics of Illusion: From Socrates and Psychoanalysis to Donald Trump.”
21. Freud, “The Future of Illusion”
22. I’ve discussed elsewhere the similarities of “sociological imagination” (Mills, C.Wright. 2000 . The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.) and institutional critique in the arts. See: Gurur Ertem, “European Dance: The Emergence and Transformation of a Contemporary Dance Art World (1989-2013),” (PhD diss, The New School for Social Research), p.30.
23. Back, Les. 2015. “Blind Optimism and the Sociology of Hope.” DiscoverSociety, December 1, 2015. (http://discoversociety.org/2015/12/01/blind-pessimism-and-the-sociology-of-hope/)
24. See Stephen K. Levine’s Trauma, Tragedy, Therapy: The Arts and Human Suffering for an extended discussion of poeisis with regards to coming to terms to trauma through the creative act.
25. See the transcript of my talk “Field Notes on Instituting” delivered at the Inventory #2 Conference, Tanzhaus nrw Düsseldorf, June 1, 2017. (http://www.gururertem.info/uploads/8/8/7/6/88765342/gurur_ertem_field_notes_on_instituting_inventur_2.pdf)
26. Demirtaş, Selahattin. 2017. Seher. Ankara: Dipnot Yayınları.
27. Roy, Arundhati. 2002. “Come September.” Talk delivered at Lannan Foundation Lecture, Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico. September 18, 2002. (http://ada.evergreen.edu/~arunc/texts/politics/comeSeptember.pdf)