As I begin this week, I remember a conversation I had with a doctoral student friend last night who is struggling to finish his PhD. While I managed to meet my deadlines fairly well during my PhD, that was defiinitely an exception. In general, I have also struggled with procrastination, as I believe we all do at some point and I gave some thought to whether there is a vlaue to taking a psychological approach to research. In other words, its helpful to look at what in your life is taking your focus off of the precious mental power you need to invest in research. A great deal of that focus is needed and resolving personal dilemmas as best we can should be an integral part of an academic career since we are less able to go on auto-pilot in our work and the static of distraction is particularly unhelpful.
We also talked a bit about identity among different demographics of modern Turks, a subject I have taken up a bit in my PhD but which needs further work. The crux of the issue is this: I have repeated heard from Turkish interviewees or in informal talks with friends that Turkish culture is constructed. There is no 'real urkish culture' but rather that Turkishness is made of a great mix of identities, cultures and languages (although not religions, interestingly...although that statement could also be refined at a later point).
What fascinates me about this very prevalent discourse in Turkey is, of course, that it suggests that somewhere out there are 'pure cultures' that have retained there ancient lineages largely 'unmixed', which we know is not the case and I think many of the people who describe Turkish culture in this was are also aware of that fact. It seems to me constructions that are older have more of a veneer of 'authenticity' while more recently developed bircolage somehow seems 'mixed' or 'inauthentic'. If newer constructions can be tightly linked to older ones they also seem to have more authenticity. Take for example the city of Athens that was largely unpopulated for centuries until Greek Independence when its connections with Ancient philosophical schools (key to a *new* Greek identity built on past narratives) were seen as ideal for the carving out of a seeminly eternal space, a capital for a newly independent people. A recent and, effectively, mixed space but with a feeling of 'authenticity'. Accoding to BIrtek (see his article 'From Affiliation to Affinity in BenHabib, Shapiro, Petranovic: Identities Afiliations and Allegiances' 2007) something similar took place in Turkey during the late Ottoman Tanzimat period (so, not so terribly long after Greek independence) in which an 'authentic' lifestyle not based strictly on Islamic religious law needed to be established in a way that good include large numbers of people in an Ottoman identity. What emerged was an emphasis on the notion of 'adab' ('edip', turkish) an Islamic concept of right behaviour and way of being that fit well with notions of high culture and etiquette, drawing on an Islamicate foundation/background. So, therefore, not created ex nihilo (i.e. 'inauthenic' by popular perception) but also not seen to be rigidly religious in a style that was at that time out of favour.
So, these tendencies to construct authenticity are everywhere but I am increasingly questioning why so many Turks seem so much more aware of this bricolage than others...