This article analyzes the changing concept of “minority” in today’s Turkey. Minorities have been historically conceived as a “problem” by the Republican regime and a threat to the “purity” of the nation. For a long time, the term “minority” was commonly associated with the non-Muslim communities of Lausanne. Still now, non-Muslim communities are seen as passive elements in nation-centric conspiracy theories. However, the age-old definition of minority in Turkey is being challenged by a transformation on a global scale. Within this process, not only are political regimes, bureaucratic structures and nation-states being re-shaped, but social and cultural perceptions, and values and norms are also transforming. Given this context, it is insightful to focus on the AKP to understand the changing face of Turkey and vice versa. In this new setting, to what extent can the AKP, so far a reluctant reformer, satisfy the demands of non-Muslim citizens and address the problem of democracy? Turkey, it seems, is on the brink of another wave of change and the non-Muslim minorities are located at its center.
Minorities have always been the subject of academic, journalistic and popular research in Turkey. The general trend of most of these analyses to conceive of minorities as part of a wider international political structure, be it the international system. imperialism or an anti-national conspiracy against ethnic Turks. Within such pictures, a member of a minority group can hardly be recognized as an individual self with a sense of subjectivity. Thus, what is missing in most minority research in Turkey is an analysis of the self. This article argues that cultural studies can provide resources and inspiration for a new research paradigm for the study of minorities in Turkey through its use of qualitative anthropological methods such as participant observation, indepth interviews and focus groups.
Only then can the minority self have a chance to say something of his/her own, breaking the shield of silence and the stigma of conspiracy discourse.