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Levent Köker: Constitutionalism, Nation-State, and the Challenges of Diversity - The Case of Turkey

When: Thursday, November 9, 2017
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: 1902 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Gina Giliberti  

Group: Global Politics and Religion Research Group

Category: Academic


If “limited government, rule of law, separation of powers, and respect for human rights and liberties” are the main tenets of constitutionalism, nation-state has been its venue. It has not been a secret, on the other hand, that there is always a tension between what we may call diversity- laden nature of constitutionalism and unity-biased orientation of nation-state formations. Emergence and proliferation of transnational and supranational political and legal formations, together with the rise of non-state actors in the “international” realm, nation-states have come to terms with the requirement of political and legal reconstitution to accommodate diversity. Turkey, a member of Council of Europe since 1949, a signatory to European Convention of Human Rights as well as UN twin conventions ICCPR and ICSER, is no exception. Hence, in the last thirty years or so, Turkey has made several attempts to change its constitutional and legal structure to comply with the necessities of what Habermas calls “equal treatment of cultures”. A final and most comprehensive of these attempts was to replace the existing authoritarian 1982 Constitution with a totally new one. Recent initiatives to reach a democratic settlement for the “Kurdish Issue” and “Alevi opening” have been a part and parcel to the bid for a new constitution. As recent events in Turkey have already revealed, however, this final attempt failed and the country is now experiencing a backslide into authoritarianism. Why did Turkey fail? The main argument of this paper is that, while Turkey enjoys a potential to go beyond the unjustifiable restrictions on recognizing diversity and opt for a post-national reconstitution, it fails to realize it because of the historically ingrained ideological and political contradictions stemming from “secularism [laicism],” “Islamism,” and “Turkish nationalism”.

Köker is a Turkish political scientist with expertise on political theory, democracy and law who participated in the writing of Turkey’s 2007 draft constitution.

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