Are displaced and emigrated academics “at risk” or “in reserve”? Are political oppression of dissident scholars and economic precarization of academic workforce separate phenomena, or two sides of the same coin? Can the pervasive precariousness in its various forms foster a conversation on shared sensibilities? And, can traumatic experiences like exile and loss eventually lead to a revival of agency?
Based on the author’s own experiences and on in-depth interviews with the exiled Peace Academics,
At the Margins of Academia offers a broad approach to the challenge of academic labor precarity and the growing academic migration from Turkey to European academic labor markets. It provides a detailed analysis of the systemic background of precariousness and the socio-emotional expressions of being kept in reserve, in conjunction with the antinomies of exile.
The ongoing witch-hunt in Turkish universities adds a political dimension to the economic precarization of the academic labour force, and should be seen as part of a wider, distinctly neo-liberal attempt on the part of the state to eradicate rational agency. By eliminating qualified oppositional cadres en masse on false accusations, the government implements a policy of systematic deinstitutionalization in the sphere of intellectual production. The erosion of critical subjectivity via deregulation and precarization has certainly been under way for a while now, albeit in different degrees and with diverse intensity. Yet in Turkey, it found an exceptionally fertile breeding ground due to some historical peculiarities of Turkish society, such as the state-oriented institutionalization process of academic structures and the pervasive anti-intellectualism.
The current war against universities in Turkey is being fought (and apparently won) with the help of academia itself. The universal values of knowledge production are being trampled down by the very institutions that are supposed to be dedicated to the safeguarding of these values. University administrations team up with the state in suppressing opposition by exploiting the economic vulnerability of the academic labour force to silence, intimidate or directly punish critical voices within the universities. The actual significance of the Academics for Peace Petition, originally intended as an attempt to bring peace back to the agenda, lies perhaps rather in the fact that it has surprisingly unveiled this unholy correlation between local circumstances and the dynamics of neo-liberalism.