The student movement in Turkey: a case study of the relationship between (re)politicization and democratization
Bugra Yarkin, Derya
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One particularly striking aspect of the global waves of social movements is the increasing politicization of youth, including students. Taking this as its starting point, this article discusses what the politicization of youth could mean for democracy and democratization in Turkey. This is important because, especially since 2011, Turkish politics has been dominated by debates concerning authoritarianization. Focusing on the largest student organization in Turkey, the Student Collectives (SC), this article shows that the relationship between politicization and democratization is more complicated than at first sight. Some aspects of the student movement in Turkey suggest it is an important moment of democratization in Turkey while other aspects arouse scepticism. Three crucial indicators of a movement's democratic potential are whether it attends to deciphering the existing constellation of power relations, reflects on the possibility of installing a counter-hegemony and gives importance to collective identities. However, the SC's potential democratic contribution is weakened by its conceptualization of democratic struggle in terms of antagonism rather than agonism through 'moralizing' politics. Moreover, its reluctance to engage with institutions of representative democracy further complicates the matter. The main contribution of this study is its discussion of various forms of politicization and their possible effects on democratization; and to give some clues to the activists of different social movements that can be helpful in their self-reflection.