- Introduction-A State of Diasporas:The Transnationalisation of Turkey and its Communities Abroad
This special collection1 aims to investigate Turkey's state diaspora policies and the so-called new wave of migration from Turkey—new in as much as it partly consists of what were previously considered the privileged secular middle classes of western Turkey—in the context of autocratization particularly since the Gezi protests in June 2013 and the military coup attempt of 15 July 2016. We are particularly interested in the movement of these new migrants, the transformation of existing diasporas and the emergence of new ones, the circumstances and conditions under which they are mobilized and governed, and the ways in which they are conceptualized, imagined, and defined in the context of contemporary Turkey. The contributions to this collection concern the current expansion of Turkey's transnational space. What we call the transnationalization of Turkey is an ongoing process through which the Turkish state creates and mobilizes certain communities abroad as "Turks" and promotes Turkishness—defined through religious and linguistic connections with Turkey, as well as loyalty to the AKP regime—beyond its own borders using various means such as economic incentives or semiotic presence in places of religious observance. How do the home and host states define and interact with the diaspora they construct and shape through their interaction? What can we learn about Turkey's diaspora if observed through the state's [End Page 105] agencies and their modus operandi? What does the Turkish state's engagement with diaspora communities, and its long-lasting attempt to forge and govern "its" diaspora by expanding its governance beyond its borders, tell us about how societal and political conflicts in Turkey are reproduced outside the territory of the Republic of Turkey? To what extent can migrant communities exist and consolidate beyond the grip of the Turkish state? These are some of the questions this collection seeks to answer.
Three main features can be distinguished in the scholarly and public debate on Turkey's current engagement with its diaspora. The first is the notion of novelty and refers to a "new wave," a term that has entered the public debate (Nurtsch 2019; Demishevich 2019) to qualify the post-2010s emigration from Turkey as a result of rapid democratic retrenchment and the criminalization of dissent. The shift towards authoritarianism and the "exit from democracy" (Öktem and Akkoyunlu 2018) led members of the political opposition as well as ordinary citizens to search for alternatives to their lives in Turkey. This new wave is often depicted as heterogeneous, as its composition extends well beyond the traditional cleavages of Turkey's society: secular, liberal, and highly educated members of the middle classes, intellectuals, families with high expendable income, and members of LGBTQ communities are among them, as are members of religious and ethnic minorities, and followers of religious-political movements like the Gülen network and others now criminalized by the Erdoğan regime. Such a plurality of backgrounds and motivations makes the socio-economic composition and the religious-political affiliation of people leaving Turkey the analytic variables rather than the mere context of this study.
The second aspect of this debate is concerned with Turkey's extraterritorial governance and emphasizes how power is exerted through a series of institutions geared toward projecting the state's authority beyond its territorial borders. Whilst the Turkish state's "strategy of maintenance" (Amiraux 2002) towards guest worker communities dates back to the 1980s, in the past two decades, Turkish governmental and non-governmental institutions and state policies have expanded decisively (Maritato, in this collection) and have moved into the realm of "mobilizing" its diaspora rather than just "maintaining" its migrant workers abroad.
The third aspect of the discussion considers how Turkey's grip on the transnational space creates and fosters legal, socio-cultural, economic, and political links with select Turkey-related communities abroad. Through programs directed towards "kin communities," the Turkish state expands its identity politics beyond what could arguably be referred to as Turkey's diasporas (i.e., communities whose members hold Turkish passports or maintain decisive linguistic and/or religious ties and...