Political Destabilization in Turkey: The Case of Journalism, 1980-2013

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This research explores the making of the contemporary media in Turkey. I conducted fifteen months of fieldwork in Turkey in 2013 and 2014. During my field research I interviewed sixty-three journalists, civil society activists, state officials and legal scholars, participated at protests and civil society meetings of journalists, and collected published documents. Based on my data, I suggest that the decline in the plurality of opinions, the decline in the quality of news-making and the increase in the contentious activities of journalists in Turkey in the last decade are consequences of the destabilization in power hierarchies and journalists’ interpretations of such destabilization. In the interviews, I found that journalists commonly organized their narratives about professional practice around the notions of identity, status and emotions. They stressed that as the state’s attitude towards journalists with varying political identities changed, so did journalists’ status positions and their emotions. Building on these accounts, I define destabilization as the disturbance of power hierarchies among various identity groups. I argue that journalists’ interpretations of the redistribution of power motivated them to revise their professional practices. These practices constitute the news-content, movements and organizations in the contemporary media landscape. Overall, my theoretical explanation sets forth the concept of destabilization as an external factor that transforms social action. Moreover, it presents the role played by identity, status and emotion as mediators between the large forces that alter the conditions of existence of social actors and the social actors’ actions. I should note that while the dissertation stresses the role played by political, economic and cultural forces as well as identity and status in structuring the field of journalism, the novelty of the framework lies in integrating emotions, which have been unduly disregarded, with these other ways of describing and explaining in political analysis. In an era of rising authoritarianism, this analysis allows us to recognize the significance of understanding professional practice and institutional change in their political, economic and cultural context. Although the framework proposed in this dissertation is based on data gathered on developments in Turkey before 2014, the implications of the dissertation reach beyond that date and geography. Specifically, the dissertation provides a historical perspective on the origins of institutional decay in countries transitioning to repressive regimes.

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Political science; Sociology; Destabilization; Institutions; Journalism; Politics; Professional fields; Turkey


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Berezin, Mabel M

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Swedberg, Richard
Evangelista, Matthew A
Gocek, Fatma M

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Ph. D., Sociology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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