Bard College Berlin Presents
Thursday, December 6, 2018

Faculty Colloquium - Affective Polarization as an Instrument of Democratic Backsliding: The Turkish Case

Bard College Berlin Cafeteria, Waldstr. 70, Berlin - Pankow

A talk by Aysuda Kölemen, current BCB Research Associate

The last decade witnessed the global rise and consolidation of right-wing populism around the globe. Right wing populism should not be understood as a distinct and temporary political phenomenon but as a stage and instrument of democratic backsliding. By depicting the leader as the personification of the nation and utilizing affective polarization through demonization of his critics, right-wing populism legitimizes and enables the suppression of oppositional forces in formerly democratic regimes. To be able to justify the weakening of democratic accountability, the leader employs a polarizing scheme where he presents himself to be in a battle against a number of organized elite groups - almost invariably in a conspiracy with foreign powers - that fight against the true interests of “the people” (to be understood as the majority constitutive elements of the nation).

This presentation will focus on how the demonization and criminalization of critical voices with the collaboration of the mainstream media served to legitimize the democratic backsliding of Turkey. Regardless of how ideologically and demographically heterogeneous they may be, all critical groups are portrayed as part of a nebulous “traitors of the nation” cabal. The nature and language of these accusations - a narrative of foreignness and treason - are strikingly similar even as their target shifts at a dizzying pace. Emotions of fear and loathing in the population are stirred up by the media that feverishly taunts the ever-changing enemy of the week. In this respect, the demonization of opposition has become ritualistic and Turkish media has been appointed as the shaman of these rituals. The talk will illustrate how Turkish print media amplified the voice of the government and suppressed that of the critics during critical junctures by identifying the common affective elements of these demonization rituals and how they legitimize authoritarianization by securing support for a leader who claims to embody the nation against these enemy objects.

Aysuda Kölemen received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Georgia, Athens, USA in 2010. At present, she is a research associate at Bard College Berlin. Her research interests include public opinion and discourses on redistribution, politics of new religiosities, and democratic backsliding. She is currently working on authoritarianization and civil resistance in Turkey. 

Date & time: Thursday, December 6, 2018, from 12:30pm
Venue: Bard College Berlin Cafeteria
Waldstr. 70, Berlin - Pankow

Contact information:  communications@berlin.bard.edu

Location: Bard College Berlin Cafeteria, Waldstr. 70, Berlin - Pankow

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