Interview – Katerina Dalacoura

Dr Katerina Dalacoura is Affiliate Professor in Worldwide Relations on the London College of Economics and Political Science. Her major areas of curiosity embrace the connection between political Islam and worldwide human rights norms, the ideas of tradition and civilization in worldwide relations, Turkish international coverage and democracy and secularisation within the Center East. She is the writer of Islamist Terrorism in the Middle East and has contributed articles to Financial system and Society, Third World Quarterly, Democratization and Worldwide Politics. Dalacoura has held quite a lot of tutorial positions, together with as British Academy Mid-Profession Fellow, has been concerned within the European Fee Horizon 2020 sponsored undertaking ‘Center East and North Africa Regional Structure’, and labored for the Worldwide Institute of Strategic Research. She is the recipient of a 3 yr Leverhulme Belief Main Analysis Fellowship on the subject of ‘The Worldwide Considered Turkish Islamists: Historical past, Civilization and Nation’ which is able to begin in September 2021.

The place do you see essentially the most thrilling analysis/debates taking place in your discipline?

My discipline is the Worldwide Relations of the Center East, a definite space of research, separate from Center East space research and likewise the politics, economics, geography and anthropology of the area. The dynamism of the sphere might be seen within the rising variety of tutorial publications produced inside it and the variety of tutorial posts opening up for instructing and researching it. The normal considerations of the Worldwide Relations of the Center East have been with conflict, terrorism, oil and ‘Islam’. Latest traits, nonetheless, level to new and maybe sudden areas of research which replicate, dare I say, a extra hopeful future for the area. Examples embrace a concentrate on de-sectarianisation, the way forward for democracy and political change, new insights about Islamism following its political failures after the Arab Spring, a shift in the direction of secularisation and the strengthening of nationwide loyalties, within the benign sense of overcoming parochial identities.

How has the best way you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted essentially the most important shifts in your considering?

The beginning of my tutorial profession, within the Nineties, was marked by a brief flirtation with post-modernist considering. I deserted this, after a interval of intense reflection, within the final yr of my PhD. Since then I can solely outline myself as a liberal, within the broad sense. For me, liberalism encompasses potent traditions of tolerance and critique (a few of which it shares with strands of post-structuralist and post-colonial considering). It encourages self-reflection and self-doubt. I’ve always struggled with the key questions liberalism places ahead: how can we steadiness between several types of rights, between the rights of various people and between the rights of teams and people? In as far as I’ve made progress in my understanding of the world, it’s in how we will strike a (barely) higher steadiness between these completely different calls for, that are so troublesome to reconcile.

I’m a modernist and, whereas I recognise the issues, losses and crimes related to modernity, I feel progress is feasible, although it takes for much longer than individuals assume and it’s by no means uni-directional. I’m a positivist (which doesn’t imply believing in quantitative methodologies!) whereas accepting that, as human beings, we will solely grasp actuality in a partial manner. Recognising that actuality is traditionally contingent doesn’t entail ethical relativism and I see it as incumbent on us, particularly as teachers, to deepen and widen our information and understanding.

My tutorial work, by which I imply each instructing and analysis, will not be normative and I don’t see activism on behalf of any trigger as per my job as an instructional. I strive, in as far as I can, to face again and never promote my political opinions or values, particularly to my college students. In flip, I’m fiercely jealous of my very own mental freedom: for instance, I hate the very phrase ‘curriculum’, not to mention ‘doing’ something to it, although I worth debate and elevating consciousness across the difficulty of what we train and the way.

In 2016-2019, you had been concerned within the ‘Middle East and North Africa Regional Architecture’ (MENARA) project,  which aimed to make clear the historic, political, financial and social dynamics which can be affecting the Center East and North Africa. What had been the primary and/or shocking findings of the undertaking? What had been the important thing challenges confronted by a undertaking of this scale?

This was a serious undertaking, involving quite a few companions (assume tanks and universities) throughout Europe and the Center East. Its major focus was the present Center Japanese structure and we supplied an interpretation of the place the area stands at the moment second, outlined by the 2011 Arab rebellion and the numerous conflicts (but in addition alternatives) which emerged from them.  Our experiences lined a formidable vary, from broad methodological and epistemological discussions about how the Center East must be studied, and the way the time period ‘regional order’ must be outlined, to delivering the findings of focus group-based analysis within the area about future social and political traits. I actually led a report on gender and took part in two others on faith and regional identities. The undertaking supplied in-depth evaluation and tutorial information in an accessible and politically related manner. The best problem was working along with such a diverse group of people and establishments in order to ship the work we had promised. The even larger problem was discovering methods to affect coverage makers – whether or not we succeeded is, to my thoughts, unknown and maybe unknowable.

The Center East goes by means of disaster, due to deepening authoritarianism and conflicts. However it’s a advanced area with a lot potential. The achievements of the 2011 Arab Spring aren’t misplaced and can come to fruition sooner or later. The MENARA undertaking captured a glimpse of those future potentialities, though it naturally centered on the continuing crises afflicting the area.

All through the historical past of the trendy Turkish Republic, there was an ongoing stress of ‘East versus West’. Nonetheless, you’ve pointed out that these ideas haven’t been static, with the ‘East’ being related at differing occasions with Islam, anti-imperialism and even communism. How related is the ‘East versus West’ narrative as we speak? Do these ideas function a great tool for analysing Turkey’s place on the worldwide stage?

The phrases ‘East’ and ‘West’ are ubiquitous on the subject of fascinated with Turkey: Samuel Huntington could also be scorned in our subtle tutorial circles however his affect is all over the place! West and East (with ‘East’ referring most frequently to ‘Islam’) are believed to exist, not solely within the cultural sense but in addition as homogeneous entities, each outdoors Turkey and inside it. However West and East are legendary entities, which on the very least aren’t utterly discrete from each other. Internally, opposite to a story which matches again to the late years of the Ottoman Empire and continues to be cultivated by each the AKP and its opponents, Turkey is now not characterised by an East-West fracture, if certainly it ever had been. Turkish id is marked by competing concepts in regards to the definition of the Turkish nation, the that means of ethnic id and the relevance of Islam in public and private life. The nation of robust electoral majorities for the AKP has additionally polled in favour of becoming a member of the EU. Numerous self-identity perceptions are underpinned by a posh social actuality.

Transnational relations enmesh Turkey within the so-called ‘West’, particularly Western Europe, the place a big Turkish diaspora lives, and Turkey trades with and depends economically on the European Union greater than some other area. Political, financial and cultural ties to the US are dense. Defence cooperation with NATO members is institutionalized, ticking away beneath the headlines, as do bilateral safety, intelligence and different institutional partnerships with the EU. Severe tensions and issues between Turkey and the US and the EU do exist, however they don’t signify a Turkish resolution for a everlasting parting of how.

Turkey’s former Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, believes that Turkey can lead a civilizational synthesis of East and West knowledgeable by ‘Islamic values’. Would you agree? Are you conscious of any examples of different nations or leaders who equally consider that they might lead such a synthesis?

In his lengthy profession as an instructional and as a politician in Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu actively put ahead the proposition that Turkey could possibly be the chief of an East-West synthesis, in each civilizational and political phrases. He was tapping into various mental traditions and methods of thought, Islamist and secular, specific to Turkey (I’m not conscious of examples of comparable formulations in different nations). However he has not succeeded: politically as a result of the ‘synthesis’ thought fell sufferer to failures in Turkish international coverage and intellectually as a result of his perspective is knowledgeable by an essentialist place about ‘Islamic values’ and a mischaracterisation of the West. My very own view is that we should always let go of those classes altogether. This could make discuss of ‘synthesis’ and of Turkey being a ‘bridge’ redundant.

Do ideological issues information interstate relations within the Center East? Are there any notable examples of the place Turkey, or different nations within the area, have just lately taken actions primarily based on ‘Islamic values’?

Ideology does inform interstate relations within the Center East however it’s one in all many elements at play. Ideological issues occassionally come to the fore, relying on circumstance, although it may be troublesome generally to differentiate between rhetoric and actuality. On the subject of Turkish international coverage within the Center East, I’d recommend that the AKP authorities has all the time been pushed by the need for energy projection, safety preoccupations and a realistic mixture of each nationwide and slim social gathering political pursuits. Ideological considerations, consisting of a fluid mix of Islamist, neo-Ottoman and ‘civilizationalist’ concepts, mingled with a hearty dose of Turkish nationalism, have performed a variable, important however auxiliary position. The Arab uprisings of 2011 opened up alternatives for the AKP to pursue its ideological aims and so they turned extra central to its insurance policies, if solely in some areas or clusters of relationships. Nonetheless, they receded after 2015, when a confluence of home and regional elements induced the onset of a transactional, ‘post-ideological’ section.

Later in 2021, you may be commencing along with your Leverhulme Belief Main Analysis Fellowship undertaking ‘The Worldwide Although of Turkish Islamists: Historical past, Civilization and Nation’. What are your hopes for the undertaking close to non-Western versus Western IR? Do you foresee any specific challenges in conducting the mandatory fieldwork?

That is an Worldwide Relations undertaking which engages with the idea of a ‘international IR’. Three overlapping themes about ‘the worldwide’ will represent the undertaking’s core: historical past and historiography; civilisation and tradition; nation and state. Utilizing insights and instruments from international mental historical past, I’ll hint how Turkish Islamist thought, from the late nineteenth century till the current, advanced in dialog with philosophical and political debates in each European and Muslim settings. As in my different work, I hope to question and finally problem the very classes of ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’ on which theoretical debates in IR are more and more centred.

The primary consequence of the undertaking will likely be a scholarly monograph, to be printed by a college press (to be determined). Many of the work will contain textual evaluation, trying on the writings of each iconic and minor Islamist intellectuals, and the ideologies of spiritual associations and political organisations in Turkey. I’ll spend blocks of time in Turkey over the three years of the Fellowship, for fieldwork. That is all the time difficult – ‘fieldwork’ can imply so many various issues and be carried out in such diverse methods. When I’m in Turkey I’m a foreigner, in fact, and a Greek, at that (I’m additionally British however in Turkey I’m seen as a Greek). Though that is an impediment, being an outsider additionally opens alternatives for communication and buying insights that may not exist for an ‘insider’. One in every of my points with culturalism in all its kinds – and the numerous different ‘id’-centred views that afflict our age – is that it equates understanding with being an ‘insider’, reasonably than seeing the insider’s perspective as one in all many.

What’s crucial recommendation you would give to students of Worldwide Relations?

There are three checks, in my thoughts, for good tutorial work: assembly the ‘what?’, the ‘so what?’ and the ‘then what?’ standards. The primary signifies that one’s work have to be accessible and comprehensible (I generally learn or take heed to tutorial work which I discover impenetrable or is an ‘edifice of phrases’; I used to assume it was me, however now I’m not so certain). The second signifies that one’s work should not be trivial. It may be slim – and slim is usually greatest – however not trivial. The third means considering by means of the implications of 1’s work, in as far as it has a normative content material. Critique is critical, however what’s the subsequent step? A accountable ethical place is one that doesn’t finish with critique however places one thing constructive within the place of what’s being critiqued.  

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations