In July 2016, Turkey was shaken by a bloody coup attempt. Although the would-be putschists failed, their
ill-fated insurgency led to an unprecedented reshuffling of Turkey’s political economic and military
landscape. In an attempt to weed out the coup planners and their associates, President Erdogan and the
AKP government (Justice and Development Party) embarked on a massive purge that resulted in
dismissals and detentions of thousands of civil servants; closing down of schools, universities and media
outlets; blocking of websites and social media accounts, and arrests of journalists.
In this talk, I offer a political economic and historical analysis to argue that the current troubles with
Turkey’s media system are not unusual developments that can simply be imputed to the post-coup
conjuncture or the AKP’s 14-year and continuing rule. Based on my book Media in New Turkey: The
Origins of an Authoritarian Neoliberal State, I argue that Turkey’s media system has been beset by a
centralized state authority and its national security paradigm, and untrammeled commercialization and
clientelism since at least the 1980s. I analyze the tensions and negotiations between longstanding
authoritarian state forms and Turkey’s experiences with globalization and neoliberalization in the post-
1980 era, and discuss its media system as a byproduct of the interpenetration of state and capital, and the
convergence of domestic and global dynamics (e.g. military interventions, rise of political Islam, end of
the Cold War, and recent geopolitical shifts in the Middle East). In addition, I also map the connections
between Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan and Russia with respect to the development and regulation of their
media systems in light of their experiences with modernization and globalization.
Bilge Yesil is an Associate Professor of Media Culture at the City University of New York, College of
Staten Island. She is the author of Video Surveillance: Power and Privacy in Everyday Life (2009). She
has published in Cultural Studies, Media History, Global Media and Communication, Communication,
Culture&Critique; in edited collections and online forums. Her research focuses on Internet policy,
mediated activism, Kurdish media in diaspora, and transnational political communication.
This talk is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lunch and colloquium begin at noon. Space is limited, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo copyright by Daniel Etter/Redux.