A Network is a Network, Especially After Gezi Park

The limits of international networks.

July 22, 2013

I checked my emails over and over again  for several days and nights.

First, I thought there was something wrong with my email, so I sent myself an email to check if it worked, and yes, it did.

Then, I decided to wait for a few days till the news really hit the international press, and it did.

Then, I decided to send emails to foreign friends and some people in my international networks about what was going on, until I just realized that it was futile.

It had been several weeks since the protests started in Gezi Park in Istanbul, and then spread to all of Turkey and yes, I was the academic in the field of international relations, also doing peace studies, with a large network of international friends, yet my email was more silent than ever.

I must not mislead you: I did receive emails from some friends in my networks who were wondering about me, wondering about the events, reporting how their media was covering the events; however, the interest in general was pretty low. Reversely, I received complaints from friends on social media who suggested that I was posting too many things. My other academic friends got similar reactions from friends abroad which proved to be very upsetting for all of us.

Apparently, very few people in my international networks cared for my physical and emotional well being when all hell broke loose where I lived. I could understand, this since I don’t write to everyone abroad whose country is going through political protest or natural disasters. Still deep down, I know that I would have expected more of my friends to react. However, more surprisingly, very few people, in my academic networks cared even professionally about what was going on here despite the fact that most of the people in my networks are either in international relations, political science or in the field of peace studies and are therefore professionally not alien to the topics of peaceful protests, police brutality, democratization, authoritarianism, civil liberties, conflict resolution, etc.

When I chose IR as my academic field, I had some Professional and personal reasons: on the professional front, I really was interested in the way different states, cultures, and political systems interacted. Despite its origins in Political Science, IR today is an interdisciplinary field, and I was motivated by the many things to learn in different fields. But maybe most importantly, the field was dynamic, there was something happening somewhere in the world all the time and that meant it would be hard to get bored.

Today, I can confidently say that I was right on these reasons. In this interdisciplinary approach to an unsettled and unsettling world, it is almost impossible to be bored. However, when the events are happening in one’s own country, due to the lack of emotional distance to the topic, following the current events during times of distress become almost debilitating. In this sense, getting in contact and exchanging views with colleagues has been a lifesaver, and I would like to extend my thanks to my small group of friends in my large networks who saved me by asking questions, discussing and pushing me to make sense of things, however hard they may be.    

The more personal reason was about my willingness to connect with people from different parts of the world. My longtime interest in foreign languages opened me up to the world, allowed me to communicate with people from different countries, and brought me to an academic career in IR. I thought traveling to international conferences and making international friends would fit very well with my cosmopolitan mind, and I went out of my way oftentimes to make new friends from different parts of the world.

In the end, I can say that I am part of some active international networks. However, the recent events in Turkey made me realize that a network is actually just a network. They are not going to wonder about me personally or most of them will not even professionally be wondering about the state of affairs in my country because it is not their region or their field. The same goes for me: I probably will not do these for people in my networks, either. I think to come to this realization and viewing a network not as a group of distant but international friends, but as what it is, a network, has given me a better perspective.

Istanbul, Turkey

Itir is a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.



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