Turkey caught me off guard. Again. I was about to take a trip to the north of the city for Christmas celebrations when I heard the news. I said, “Oh boy, another power worship craze.” I didn’t realize how immediate everything was to my family.
Last week, Turkish Prime Minister went to ODTU, Middle East Technical University, and the students protested his presence on their campus. Erdogan and his government crashes every aspect of academic freedom, from freedom to produce knowledge to freedom of education. PM Erdogan entered in the campus to only exhibit his power. It was a symbolic visit, and the students rallied against it. The reaction of the police was harsh, leaving students injured, arrested and tortured.
It wouldn’t be horribly wrong to put it this way: ODTU is Turkey’s Berkeley. Even though the campus was an American invention from design to education (a campus in the shape of a handgun towards the Soviets with a curriculum completely taught in English), the smartness it attracted have always given ODTU a critical edge. Throughout years, and especially in the 1970s, ODTU was the left’s castle. Even after the catastrophic apolitization of the 1980s, ODTU kept its reputation– we all know, ODTU students and alumni are natural-born oppositionals.
When I heard about the police’s inexplicably harsh treatment, I was speechless, again. Because my sister is a graduate of ODTU. My brother in law, as well. So are some of my closest friends. Hearing an ODTU student hurt in the news would mean immediate anxiety at our homes. All of them are family to us.
What made everything worse, and caught me off guard, was a declaration by some universities (not their Senates, not their administration, not their Presidents, but the UNIVERSITIES–that’s how they worded it). In this declaration, the ODTU students were represented as violence supporters, and they were condemned for being against scientific development. One of those universities was my university, Galatasaray.
Galatasaray University is almost the opposite of ODTU. Or it was when I was going there. It was proud of being apolitical. Everybody, students and the academics, were happy with their French education, Francophile tendencies, wine, and cheese. We loved talking about poetry, our trips to Europe, and the beauty of Istanbul. We had the right to do so: Our campus is at the center of Istanbul, on the Bosporus’ side. We loved being the last representatives of the Belle Epoque in Turkey.
Despite this magical environment, my school also was hurt by whatever is going on in Turkey. We have a President who has a terrible accent in French, inexplicable declarations about his political ideas, and a horrible mustache. Everyone knew he never had the potential to even represent Galatasaray, but he somehow got to lead it. And when we heard of the declaration condemning our brothers and sisters at ODTU, everybody knew that it was his idea. It would be impossible to pass such text by our professors.
The professors and the alumni association immediately released statements clearly dissociating themselves from the university’s president. I signed the alumni declaration without losing time.
Later on, when I woke up from a horrible night, I realized how immediate the whole situation was to my family. My sister and I have differences in our political opinions. We always had different visions on life. She represented the rationale in our family while I was writing poetry and going for adventures in Europe. But we never fell apart. I know what it means to be a student at ODTU, and she was always supportive of me although she hated my Francophone behavior. This is the same for the relation of ODTU and Galatasaray communities. We are maybe not the best buddies of higher education community, but never, ever a Galatasaray alumni or professor would condemn an ODTU student for his/her political opinions and activism. It is clear, we are a family.
I am writing this post to state one thing we all know. The sane part of Galatasaray is in solidarity with the brave students of ODTU. I am also writing this post to state one thing that people will read after many years. Our schools, and our country indeed, may experience horrible leadership, but we, the people, are connected with something more subtle, more delicate, and stronger. It takes more policemen than you think to destroy that.
The official release date for Sezen Aksu’s album “Bahane” was February 16, 2005. I remember vividly though that it was in the record stores on Tuesday, February 14, 2005. It was a lonely Valentine’s Day, also a poor one so I had to wait until February 18, when my allowance would arrive from my parents. Those four days were painful. I would hear bits of the album from the shops of Istiklal Caddesi on my way to my apartment every evening, but I would turn up the volume of my Discman, to prevent ruining the incredible experience of listening to a Sezen Aksu album for the first time. The day came; I finished school at noon, left immediately. I was walking on Ciragan Caddesi towards Besiktas, thinking how lucky I was for going to the school I had dreamt all my life, learning the most romantic language on earth, and being about to listen to Sezen Aksu’s latest album.
I had no idea how this day would change my life forever. And maybe for the first time, Sezen Aksu had very little to do with it.
On the same spot where I had met “the loud girl from diplomacy club” a month ago, I received a text from her. Just like a month ago, she was inviting me to a party at her house. I knew my roommate’s weird classmates would be there, and I honestly didn’t want to go. I had a musical gem to discover, and I was finally able to purchase it. They were nice people actually, just like my roommate, but also a bit weird, just like my roommate. The depressed and short girl, the tall and loud Albanian girl, the cheerful gay kid, the pouty law school girl, the cool bald guy, and of course the loud girl from the diplomacy club. She probably had invited some other people, and I was dead sure she insisted relentlessly that they attended her party. I also knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this invitation. In text, she was saying that we would have fun just like last time (and I was saying inside: yeah, I will crack some graphic jokes making people think that I am total nutcase) and my roommate would also join us in the evening (and I was saying inside: yeah, as if his crazy girlfriend would let him join us.) Best thing about this party was that it started in the early afternoon. I could spend some time with them, drink a couple of beers, and then run off to Sezen Aksu’s “Bahane.”
I showed up with four beers in my hand, and they were extremely glad to see me. My roommate wasn’t there, and I was in equal distance to all the party attendees. All of them were sitting on the big, orange couch in the living room with drinks and munchies on the coffee table, and smoke was all around the house. They were playing some “alternative” music, which translated back then into Muse, Placebo, and Radiohead. They had the party started; I joined them with my beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other. I was having an OK time, thinking that attending this party actually turned out better than I expected. We had a great time for about four hours, and it was becoming late—at least for my album purchase. As they were about to have dinner and drink more, I told them I was leaving. My roommate was “still on his way to the party.”
Suddenly, the cheerful spirit of the party changed, and they were genuinely sad that I was leaving. I remember telling at least five lies contradicting with each other. I didn’t want to leave; I was having a great time. But Sezen Aksu was also waiting for me in a music store. When I left, I remember how I found my mind completely changed. I remember how much I wanted another party, and how much I would love to hang out with them, again.
I arrived to Taksim tipsy, bought the album, listened to the album as I chain-smoked. I fell in love with the album immediately, just like the rest of Turkey. That year, “Bahane” became the most selling album of the year producing super-emotional hits like “Eskidendi, Cok Eskiden” and “Ikili Delilik.” My night was complete with Sezen Aksu although my heart also wanted to be with my new weird friends.
I didn’t know this night was the simple summary of my last 8 years, my present, and probably my future. Those people, those weird friends I made through my roommate, with some additions and departures, became my family in Istanbul. Each one of them still holds an important part of my life or my memories or both. Most of them are still in my life, knowing every single detail of my everlasting academic struggle, wrecked love life, and perpetual drama. They are still the ones I make the first phone call to when I have the best and the worst news. They no longer hold these parties, especially in the early afternoon; but they still come together for me whenever I visit Istanbul.
However, no matter how much I love them, they can’t always be with me or answer the phone every time I call them. They have other lives at a different time zone than mine. In those moments, though very few, I turn on Sezen Aksu, and feel home, around my weird family. When my friends are sleeping or flying to Portugal, when I am running in the desert and they are defending people in courts, when I am teaching in the classroom and they are translating theory books, I heal their absence with Sezen Aksu with a beer in one hand and a ciggy in the other.
Filed under: college, event, web | Tags: academics, blogging, ML 2.o?, multilingualism, symposium, The University of Arizona
Do you have too many blogs?
When I started blogging, my first entry was about the very nature of this action. What was I personally expecting from blogging, and more than that, what was blogosphere waiting from me? These were my central questions. I tried to set myself free of limitations, because blogging was itself being limitless, or less limitless than usual. I only wrote about things I wanted, with no time limitation or academic concern.
This weekend, at the University of Arizona, we are holding Multilingual 2.0?, a symposium dealing with the timeless phenomenon of multilingualism. We will be hosting amazing scholars, and the coming together of leading scholars with participants from all around the world will contribute to the local, national, and international debate(s) of languages.
And guess who is “the blogger-in-chief”?
When Dr. Gramling, one of the core faculty members of the organization committee, asked me what I would want to do for the symposium, I had no idea. I had been volunteering for such events since my early undergraduate years, and I have done a wide range of things, from serving wine at the cocktails to making opening speeches. He looked at my perplexed face, and asked: Do you want to blog the event? I said “why not?”
However, how do you blog events? I have blogged mostly personal stuff about life and death, or music, or traveling, or changing the continent I live in—but how could I blog a symposium? Do I cover the whole thing, summarize every speech, note down every question, and then say “Wow, this was a great conference?”
Dr. Gramling said, “No. Make it personal, introduce your analysis.”
I should tell the truth: When he bestowed me the title of “blogger-in-chief”, I was intimidated at first. I felt a huge pressure on my shoulders. Mary Louise Pratt is going to speak, and I will record it? Me, a graduate student who one day wants to be an academic? But David quickly gave me the freedom I needed, the freedom that actually blogging signified: Be free, be ridiculous, tell us your take on the issues. Write like an aspiring academic, but don’t write academically.
So, I accepted the challenge. Dear Readers, if you wonder what are the contents of the speeches, please go to our website and watch the symposium live online. If you wonder what is going on in the symposium, keep on reading my blog.
And see how I deal with a roller-coaster of ideas.
Completely ignoring that my latest post was written almost 9 months ago, I realized today what a wonderful idea it was to share this blog with my dear friend and co-editor of this blog “bayripley” who kept this wonderful space on the web alive during my blog laziness. My plan was -it actually still is- to collect here all the musings of my life, after my departure from Istanbul. If you were worried about how it all went (oh you are, aren’t you?), it was and still is wonderful. However, this post is not about this theme.
Summer has come and the heat is on, and I have a confession to make. I recently had a strange revelation about young academics in universities (completely innocent, I swear). It would be an exageration to call it an attraction. Yes, we all had crushes to at least one of our teachers anywhere during our education, but academics in universities are different. Teacher-crushes are childish, resulting from the recent entry to the adolescence, maybe from the attraction coming from the authority over students. Whereas for academics, I can’t argue that any of this is true. They barely associate with the authority in the university and they are not part of our adolescence. Young academics are instructors and yet they still are students. I also notice that they are also getting more good-looking everyday. None of those can be said for teachers in high school, since they are mostly stupid, unsuccessful, boring and aged versions of academics. If anyone who’s still in high school is reading this, (which is highly unlikely by the way), let me tell you, forget about your teachers and keep your school fantasies for the academics when you go to the university.
What makes them attractive in the first place is that they are smart. The PhD title assures that. Here, the evolutionary theory will support me. Although I insert this picture here, I don’t totally agree with the recently popular saying from the past few years, “Smart is new sexy.” Smart was always sexy. Being smart increases the chances of survival, thus bringing an attractiveness that some would call “sophisticated”, for reasons that they want to seem sophisticated. If you are one of those, I have some bad news for you: you are not sophisticated just because you are attracted to the smart, it’s all in your genes; so don’t take a credit. Smart is sexy and the young academics world take every advantage of that fact, where smartness is continously replacing the formerly promoted hardworking/nerdy stereotype.
Another thing is that young academics are technologically savvy. You can wonder, how this can count as an attractive element. During the few past decades, technological discoveries were merely scientific accomplishments. Those who were into it, were only said they were nerds because they were into sci-fi. Talking about Asimov novels or making jokes about Wookies was not cool. Let me clear further how this works: someone who is babbling about lightsabers, robots and cloning is not attractive; but someone who has a lightsaber and a few robots in his house, that’s attractive ! This is one of the reasons why James Bond was a sex god in the 80s and 90s, because he had gadgets that seem ridiculous now, but Bond was able to use those things perfectly. (No, it has nothing do about dirty martini.) Young academics are James Bonds of our communities, they never go buy a lame BlackBerry and fool around all the time on messenger like those underachieving university students. They have Android phones, iPads and Macs (oh and they all have blogs ! For more information on why, us bloggers are cool: See past posts of bayripley here and here). They install ridiculously good technologic improvements to their properties: soundsystems, projectors and a little cloning machine to go with them.
Ever wondered what happened to this man in a suit, exiting his office and heading to his car to go back to his apartment in the suburbs? Or to this woman with a red lipstick, wearing a white blouse, black skirt and high heels in the elevator of her favourite 50-story plaza? Hey, I got another news: They are not attractive anymore. The academic world trumps the biz world now. Cubicles (where I would end up probably), plazas and afterwork parties are extremely lame! Business people are the new nerds and they are going down. Young academics are aware of this and they want nothing to do with this life. In fact they could have been very successful in the biz world and get those nice paychecks easily. But instead they have chosen to live on education grants and teaching “tips” from the university. They hop on their bike in the downtown, looking extremely gorgeous and head on to the “holy grounds” of their university. And that’s why they are so cool !
This revelation came to me months ago, since I’m a master student for a while now -No, I will not get a Phd, so this post is not a self-appraisal-. (note to bayripley: Since you will get a Phd title, you can thank me later for this post) Maybe it is because I spend too much time in the university and the computer lab (which is partly true), but more probably, it is because the university is my only social life. Can you imagine that I spend more time in the university than in night clubs ? (Yeah, it sucks.) And believe me when I say that when I walk in the hallways of my university, all the offices of doctorate students I pass by, seem like a fornication chamber to me. (This post is almost getting kinky, but I’m going to stop there). To summarize, academics are no more associated with the nerdy and loser stereotype, as they were before. They are dangerous and should be looked out for. Everytime you see a research or teaching assistant with an iPad in his hand, chase away your prejudices and observe his curves (no, not the distribution curves. body curves !!) and hopefully you will get the same revelation I got.
P.S: Don’t forget to send an e-mail to me when you get your Phd degree. I will be waiting.
Filed under: art, college | Tags: ciplak berlin, copyright, literature, nedim gursel, practice
Part 1: Literature in Practice
One day, a professor of mine walked in the class with a bunch of books in his hands, and asked: Do you think those books should be translated? Why and why not? 10 of those books were in German, 3 in Turkish, and one in English. They were trapped in the language they were written in. He let us chose one, and we would come up with our answer after two weeks. I came up with these blog entries, which are a little more than my specific answer to his question.
This first entry is going to cover my ideas about a literature course. Second will be based on my actual answer to the question of “Nedim Gürsel’s Çıplak Berlin, should it be translated to English, and/or German? If yes, why?”
This main idea of this entry is of course influenced by this very course: German 506: Representing the Other. We have done similar stuff, like organizing a mini-symposium. I believe, especially in upper division of undergraduate education, such a course would be fun to teach, and very useful to take.
Working in the field
I have had a rigorous political science education during my undergraduate years in Galatasaray University and Sciences-po de Paris. Practice was sometimes more useful than the theory. I took classes in which we focused on practice of whatever we were learning. My active years in a student club, which underscored practical learning, also helped me in coming up with this idea. I suggest there is a course, which lets the student “practice” literature—or at least get accustomed to some professional activities in the literary field. Maybe professors around the world are doing it, and I don’t know about that yet but I think there should be a class called “Literature in Practice”.
In that class, there should be an assignment each week: One week, students should be the editors of their classmates, suggesting their insight about a pre-written work. They can also come up with a book idea, develop it with all the aspects, and maybe “design” the book rather than writing it. Another week, they can get into translation, and compare two forms of translated texts or two translated versions of one single text. They might investigate how writers interact with their translators, or how they get involved or stay out of the whole translation process. If they were a translated author, how would they react to the intervention of other agents? Even a little assignment could be designed on that: Some students would write stuff, others would translate it, and some others would conduct the translation process. Another week, they should come up with ideas on how “marketable” a literary work is, or design some campaigns for the promotion of the work. A week can be wholly invested into international and national copyright issues, covering mainly literary works with different examples. This last suggestion is the subject for a semester-long course in Law Schools, but maybe a lecture covering basic issues in intellectual property law, especially on written works, can be useful. Another week can be devoted to the presentation of recent debates, or documenting latest discussions in the field. Creating a calendar, marking the award deadlines or book fairs, can also be an assignment in the course. There can be many other examples to diversify and enrich the content of the course.
Total BS or an alternative?
I can hear some literature devotees screaming, probably cursing me or taking me as one of those douchebags who are trying to commodify the literary field more than it is now. I assure you I am not. I am strongly bounded to literature, and profoundly believe in its non-professional, authentic core—where writing only serves itself and is done for the sake of the writer’s intention, not the publisher’s benefit calculations. However, such practice can be really helpful for students who are thinking about working in publishing or even thinking of becoming academics, who will one day eventually have to work with some publisher for his own work.
What do you think folks? Would you take such a course?
Filed under: college | Tags: bilgi university, freedom of expression, porn scandal
I remember those great days: Bilgi University was “the brave institution” to dare doing “non-thinkable”. They admitted students with headscarves before the debate even started in Turkey. They opened original majors and departments within their various schools, and it encouraged many others to do so. They hosted the Armenian Genocide Conference in 2005 in their campus when the government openly opposed it. Bilgi was once known for being bold, respectful to different voices, and even supportive to them.
Now those days are over. They are still admitting students with headscarves, but this is no longer an act of boldness. They are closing down “original” departments for economic constraints. After the last “porn scandal”, they also fired two academics that approved a porn movie as a graduation project. The university administration, after the newspapers found about the scandal, under the immense pressure of the parents, declared that they are investigating the “unfortunate event”.
Bilgi became that interesting university that acts according to the “parents” which can also be interpreted as “the customers” since they are paying the tuition. Bilgi is trying to become just “another private university” in the unnecessarily crowded academic environment, although at the beginning it acquired a lot of respect and reputation despite its short history. Bilgi clearly cannot stand freedom of expression, academia, and information. Bilgi just disappointed many academics as well as many future ones.
When those “parents” complained, saying “So What?” would have been more precious than saying “Yes Sir!” Too bad to see, with the new administration, another higher education institution lost “it” in Turkey.
Being a TA sucks. It is usually referred as “cheap labor”, “academic slavery” or even “cheap slavery”. I personally enjoy it. Teaching is fun, though I cannot say the same thing for grading or tutoring. However, sometimes, the pleasure kicks in secretly. Masochistic as it sounds, it is the exams when I enjoy TAing the most.
The first wave of joy comes when you wake up in the exam morning. Having had enough sleep for an adult during the night, you open your eyes to a day when there is an exam in your calendar, but you haven’t studied a bit. You don’t feel anxiety or horror. It is just like an article in your to-do list. Take out the garbage, buy lemon juice at the market, and give an exam. This is a joy spread out entirely to your day. And the pleasure starts from the beginning.
You have distributed the exam papers, set the clock, made the explanations, and there, you have 50 minutes of full observation. This constitutes the second wave of joy.
As a TA, besides answering little questions or keeping an eye over the cheaters, you basically do nothing—or do anything! Drink coffee, read an article, check your facebook page on your palm, talk to your TA buddy, or my favorite, just tweet! You are in a very familiar environment, you sense the well-known tension, but you are engaging with that atmosphere very differently. A sweet indifference, a feeling of relief, a sense of victory… You are finally there.
It is also a spectacle. When you are in a large classroom, say 300, the harmonious movements of the test takers are visually entertaining. How they gradually complete their perfect lining at the beginning of the exam, how they randomly lean on the paper or stretch to accelerate their blood circulation; they all actually make up a show. When the professor makes a remark about a question, all 300 heads get up in a heart beat, they all turn the page to the mentioned question and what you see as a TA is an orchestra of heads and hands, realizing the choreography and creating a homogenous sound of flipping papers.
And there are individual stars of this spectacle: The faces with numerous expressions. Sleep is the most common one. Anger or frustration fight for the second rank. My favorite is the deliberation: How the students try to recollect what they have studied, or reconnect certain members of that chunk of information they acquired. While all the data are travelling from one part of the brain to another, it seems like they are passing through face muscles, creating wonderful and as many as possible expressions. This show of facial expressions completes the secret pleasure of giving an exam. Once they hand all the exams to you, you are back to your lousy TA life, minding your own cheap slavery, and perhaps wishing you were the one taking the exam rather than grading hundreds of pages.
This is human-being, as soon as the secret pleasure ends, he moves on for another yearning.