Performing the ‘Left’: Explorations of the politics of culture in/between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus since the 1960s

Call for Papers

for the edited collection:______________________________________________

The proposed volume intends to explore the intersection between politics and cultures of the ‘Left’ since the 1960s in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. Our specific aim is to locate the moments where the ‘Left’ has been claimed and performed not only through political manifestos and speeches, but also through bodily acts, discursive practices and affective encounters: transformed into distinct modalities of everyday-life practices or bodily performances, danced or sung, but also painted, moulded into sculptures, versed, captured in photographic images or on reels of tape in documentaries and films.

Framing the perspective 

Drawing on literature in post-structuralist political and social theory on the construction of political frontiers and the power of naming,1 we approach the ‘Left’ as a political signifier. Instead of treating it as a clearly demarcated political entity, we aspire to explore it as an oscillating ‘name’ claimed by diverse actors in different historical moments. While not discrediting the significance of the dividing lines between Left and Right in the making of contemporary politics and in the production of normative political discourses,2 in this book our aim is different: we seek to explore the multiplicity, ambiguity, creativeness, and internal conflicts in the process of hegemonically fixing the name of the ‘Left’ with diverse claims, practices or actors as they appear in different moments since the 1960s. In this sense we intend to examine the ways in which the experience of acting, feeling, or being named by others as a ‘left winger’ in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, has in itself infused content to what the ‘Left’ was and is. Similarly, in this volume, we use the notion of ‘culture’ in its plural form, being mindful that it has been defined in various ways by different actors within the terrain of Left-wing politics. On the one hand, therefore, we treat ‘culture’ as an emic discourse3 that reflects the different uses of the word ‘on the ground’, be it in different understandings of koultoura and politismos in Greek or of kültür in Turkish. On the other hand, we also approach ‘culture’ as a term, allowing space for a diversity of analytical perspectives: from those taking everyday practices and the meanings ascribed to them as elements that reveal a ‘whole way of life’; to those exploring ‘culture’ as reflected in art forms and art performances;5 to those calling for a critical approach to ‘culture’ and wishing to eschew a use of the concept that would imply ‘totality’;6 to those, finally, that  Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, (London & New York: Verso, 2001); Niels Andersen, Discursive Analytical Strategies. Understanding Foucault, Koselleck, Laclau, Luhmann, (Bristol: The Policy Press, 2003); Jacob Torfing, New Theories of Discourse : Laclau, Mouffe, and Zizek, (Oxford & Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1999). Norberto Bobbio, Left and Right : The Significance of a Political Distinction, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Harris, Marvin. ‘History and Significance of the Emic/Etic Distinction.’ Annual Review of Anthropology 5, no. 1 (1976), pp. 329-50. Raymond Williams, ‘Culture is Ordinary’, in: Norman McKenzie (ed.), Conviction (London: Chatto &Windus, 1958).

An outline of the approach of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies towards ‘culture’ can be found in: Hugh Mackay, ‘Introduction’, in: Hugh Mackay, Consumption and Everyday Life, (Milton Keynes: Sage, 1997), p. 7. Evelyn Payne Hatcher, Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art, (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1999). Lila Abu-Lughod, ‘Writing against Culture’, in: Richard Gabriel Fox (ed.), Recapturing Anthropology. Working in the Present, (Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1991), p. 150; Gabrielle M. Spiegel, ‘Introduction’, in: prefer to look at the cultural practices and the formulation of identities through the dynamics of the ‘performative’.7 It is in this respect and through those broadly defined ‘cultures’ of the Left that we see the intersections between politics and culture as not of secondary importance, not merely an ‘accessory’, but as prominent features in the forging of political belongings and frontiers.

Research directions

Numerous scholars argue that the final decades of the 20th century were marked by the decline of ‘supporting cultures of socialism’, including the institutions that promoted the cultural politics of the ‘Left’. By contrast we contest that focusing on Turkey, Greece and Cyprus since the 1960s through this broadened approach, a different picture can be revealed. The reason for concentrating on the ‘Left’ in and between these three southeastern European societies is twofold: On the one hand, there is the historical, political and cultural context of the region that binds the Turkish, the Greek and the Cypriot ‘Left’ into a unique object of study. All three states emerged as the only non-socialist part of southeastern Europe from the Second World War. As regards Greece and Turkey in particular, their simultaneous accession to NATO in 1952, coupled with a long history of illegality of the communist ‘Left’ in both countries, gave rise to similar experiences of what it was to be a ‘left winger’.10 Shared feelings of comradeship in illegality, fear of prosecution, but mainly the aspirations for a different society were regularly channelled through various artistic forms or objects and a range of modalities of bodily performances. Such practices became a means for communicating political affiliations and messages of political attachment despite the prevailing prohibitions and restrictions on and violence against political expression.

On the other hand, in a region riddled by ethnic conflict, tensions and prolonged fears of war, the ‘Left’ has been—in its multifaceted aspects—among the few points of contact between segments of the three societies. Especially after the Cyprus crisis in 1974, which signalled the failure of the state-sponsored ‘friendship’ between Greece and Turkey under the umbrella of NATO, the networks of the ‘Left’ provided for years the main locus where messages for peace and reconciliation could be voiced in unison. The cultural politics of the ‘Left’ in Turkey, Cyprus and Greece has functioned as a fertile ground for face-to-face contact and the establishment of networks transcending the borders of those countries since the 1970s. Despite the rich academic production on themes related to the history of the ‘Left’ in those casestudies— and despite a recent boom in the publication of comparative research about the sociocultural elements of Turkish-Greek-Cypriot encounters11 —those two fields of research have not yet met. Therefore, this volume aspires to shed light on those multifaceted points of convergence between politics and cultures of the ‘Left’ in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. With regard to the encounters between the Greek, Turkish and Cypriot Left, ‘cultures’ became both the condition and the outcome of such contacts. For example, soon after the collapse of the dictatorship in Greece in 1974, left-wing youth groups embarked on the organisation of festivals in which poems by Nazim Hikmet featured prominently and were enthusiastically received. Similarly, Yannis Ritsos’ poetry had been widely translated, distributed and read in Turkish leftwing circles since the 1960s. Furthermore, concerts and art workshops were among the first joint initiatives to be organised by the Greek Committee for International Peace and Détente (EEDYE) and Barış Derneği, its Turkish counterpart, signalling the intensification of cooperation between the communist parties’ cadres in the late 1970s. After the September 1980 coup d’état in Turkey, the establishment of face-to-face interaction between Turkish or Kurdish political refuges and Greek radical left-wingers created its own dynamics, forged intense political and cultural contacts, and stimulated the emergence of new political identities. At the same time, the building of communicative networks between Turkish-Cypriots and Greek-Cypriots, taking into account the rich history of inter-communal cooperation within the AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People) and the workers’ syndicates before the division of Cyprus, contributed to the emergence of innovative performances of a ‘culture’ of peace. The mobilisation of the Turkish-Cypriot youth in favour of the re-unification of the island in 2003, or the common projects for transforming the ‘green line’ in a point of contact instead of separation, have been seminal corporeal interventions in the Cypriot cities, diffusing a new, radical, culture of peace. It is exactly those diverse terrains of practice that this volume aspires to explore. Furthermore, we are interested in examining politics and cultures of the Left in relation to mobility, displacement, and through the perspectives of transnational and hybrid identities. In this respect the experience of Greek, Turkish and Cypriot ‘left wingers’ as members of the diasporas since the 1960s in Germany, UK, Australia or other immigrant and refugee destination places is also pertinent to our interests. While we wish to underline the entanglements between the politics and cultures of the ‘Left’ in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, we do not underestimate the significance of each national context. We are therefore equally interested in studies of transfers as well as comparative or single country

case studies. In this respect, through this volume we are keen to explore the different cultures of resistance or adaptation of the ‘Left’ developed towards different trajectories in the three countries. For instance, we are interested in articles that focus on the ‘Left”s reaction to the depoliticising regime instituted by the 1980s junta in Turkey. Those reactions could be traced, on the one hand, in the development or modification of practices of resistance (press releases, repetitive public gatherings, etc) or, on the other hand, in the enactment of ‘culture’ as means of making politics (local peace festivals at the Aegean coastal towns during the 1980s for instance).

Similarly, in Greece, one can focus at the way in which institutionalisation was used by the socialist government as a means to hegemonise the terrain of ‘Left’-coloured politicised art and cultural production during the same period. Finally, research projects exploring the distinct relation between the reproduction of folk-culture and its political connotations in the three countries (from the role of halay dance in protests in Turkey or Northern Cyprus, to the way in which traditional music became a disputed political frontier between the Right and the Left in Greece and the Republic of Cyprus), are of significant interest for this volume. Through such an enquiry we aim at comparatively exploring how cultures of the Left were related to the processes of socio-political transition from military regimes to post-dictatorship periods in Greece and Turkey- and vice versa in the case of the latter, or from conflict to post-conflict in Cyprus.

Invited research areas and themes 

The volume seeks to attract the contribution of scholars working in diverse fields of the humanities and the social sciences, such as history, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, media studies, discourse theory and political theory. Potential contributors are encouraged to address the three national contexts from a comparative and/or transfer perspective; still, insightful studies on single countries are welcome. Potential submissions may be associated with, but not necessarily limited to, the following four main themes and their subtopics:

1. Performing Art and the ‘Left’ in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus

• Performing arts and their role in the construction of left-wing identities

• Literature, translation, internationalism and the ‘Left’

• Art festivals as places of affective and performative politics

• Art, the ‘Left’, and Greek-Turkish rapprochement

• Folk art as a terrain of hegemony between the Left and the Right

2. Performing the body and the ‘Left’

• Performing gender, generation and sexuality in ‘left’-wing politics.

• Rallies, protests, festivals and the geographies of corporeal encounters in the city

• Bodies and bodily inscriptions echoing the political history of the ‘Left’ through exile, torture, displacement

• Left-wing solidarity, rapprochement and intercultural encounters as seen through the prism of a corporeal movement, approach, and contact

3. Performing the life of things. Songs, symbols and material culture

• Songs, images, objects or products and the affective attachments of the ‘Left’

• Left-wing approaches to mass consumption

• Cultural anti-Americanism as an element of a left-wing identity

• ‘Europe’ as a contested symbol dividing and bridging the ‘Left’ Performing movement and mobility in/between Greece, Turkey and Cyprus

• The local, the global and the glocalisation of left-wing identities in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and in the diasporas. Mobility of left-wingers across national borders in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, as well as in the diasporas: Did it function as a means of forging transnational, syncretic identities or was it predicated on subtle forms of nationalism. Are those tendencies necessarily mutually exclusive or could they actually be interrelated as facets of ‘glocalisation’, as defined by Roland Robertson?

• Left-wingers as agents of a ‘transnational space’ and the ‘Left’ as an experience of the diaspora: political and national affinities.

• Borders as barriers for and as facilitators of the internationalist aspirations of the ‘Left’. 

• Tourism and face-to-face political interaction. Transnational contact through summer camps organised by the ‘Left’ as well as in excursions informally arranged by Greek, Turkish and Cypriot left-wingers.

Please send an abstract of approximately 500 words and a provisional bibliography to Dr Leonidas Karakatsanis, British Institute at Ankara ( and to Dr Nikolaos Papadogiannis, Humboldt University in Berlin (, by March 15, 2013.  Roland Robertson, ‘Glocalization: Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity’ in: Mike Featherstone, Scott Lash and Roland Robertson, Global Modernities, (London: Sage, 1995), pp. 25-44.


Gabrielle M. Spiegel (ed.), Practising History, New directions in historical writing after the linguistic turn, (New York: Routledge), 2005, pp. 22-26. Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: a Politics of the Performative, (New York & London: Routledge, 1997).  Thomas Mergel, ‘Überlegungen zu einer Kulturgeschichte der Politik’, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 28 (2002), pp. 574-606; Aletta Norval, ‘Frontiers in Question’, Filozofski Vestnik 18, no. 2 (1997), pp. 51-75. For example, see: Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 405-08. Cf. Ahmet Samim, ‘The Tragedy of the Turkish Left’, New Left Review 126 (1981); Neni Panourgia, Dangerous Citizens. The Greek Left and the Terror of the State, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009).  Yael Navaro-Yashin, The Make-Believe Space : Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Othon Anastasakis, Kalypso Aude Nicolaidis, and Kerem Öktem, eds., In the Long Shadow of Europe. Greeks and Turks in the Era of Postnationalism, (Lieden & Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2009); Umut Özkırımlı and Spyros A. Sofos, Tormented by History. Nationalism in Greece and Turkey, (London: Hurst & Company, 2008); Dimitrios Theodossopoulos, ed. When Greeks Think About Turks. The View from Anthropology, London & New York, (Routledge, 2007); Eleni Papagaroufali, ‘Town Twinning in Greece: Reconstructing Local Histories through Translocal Sensory- Affective Performances’, History and Anthropology 16 (2005), pp. 335-47; Hercules Millas, Εικόνες Ελλήνων και Τούρκων. Σχολικά Βιβλία, Ιστοριογραφία, Λογοτεχνία και Εθνικά Στερεότυπα, (in Greek, Athens, Greece: Alexandreia, 2003).

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