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What does Europe mean in the Periphery: The case of Turkey

Özge Yaka
Ondokuz Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey
Özge Yaka
Ondokuz Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey

Abstract

The meaning of Europe is widely contested. Is it a continent with fixed borders? Is it a civilizational ideal based on a particular understanding of democracy, rule of law, human rights, tolerance and human development? Is it a model of modernization and development, which does not only focus on the economic growth but also on social welfare? Or is it a space of crises and instability, of constant fear and anxiety and of the exclusionary-nationalist reaction arises from that fear? Is the progressive idea of the European modernity, which was a source of inspiration for the peripheral societies for centuries, is collapsing into a culturalist-essentialist closure which has nothing to offer to its “outside” anymore? This paper tackles with the reflections of those central questions of European trajectory in its periphery, focusing on the Turkish case. Here I would argue the tendency of closure, which began to dominate the European geography and the EU its institutional representation, in the last decade with the change of political environment and the “enlargement fatigue”, radically alters the meanings of Europe in the periphery. In response to the conference’s call to contemplate on the “methodologies of European studies”, I introduce an exercise of critical discourse analysis revealing the semiotic construction and re-construction of the meaning(s) of Europe in Turkey in relation with the current conjuncture of crisis and closure. My account also relates this fluidity of the meaning(s) of Europe with the contradictory and fragmented Turkish common sense on the idea of Europe, in which Europe paradoxically appears both as the “promised land” of modernization and development and as the “subtle enemy” aims at assimilating and exploiting “us”. Here I’ll explore the interrelations between the reflexive making and re-making of Europe and its semiotic construction and re-construction in the periphery.