From “Intervention” to “Protection”: The Power of Discourse in International Affairs

Paper for a course on theories of power and policy (Chad Levinson)

From “Intervention” to “Protection”: The Power of Discourse in International Affairs

What is the relationship between discourse and power? Once an issue makes it to the agenda, how do its framing and the specific terms used to discuss it influence policy outcomes?

This paper will attempt at providing an overview of how discourse relates to power dynamics in international affairs by taking up in particular the concept of the responsibility to protect or “R2P” and how discourse on intervention preceding it shifted in the 20th century. Continue reading

Contentious (S)Parks: Reclaiming Public Space in Yerevan and Istanbul

Paper for a course on social movements (Ariel Ahram)

Contentious (S)Parks: Reclaiming Public Space in Yerevan and Istanbul


Neither Armenia nor Turkey have enjoyed reputations of being states with stable democratic regimes. Turkey has had experience as a pluralist republic over the course of many decades, though often punctuated with military coups. Armenia, for its part, has managed to carry out free and fair elections on only a few occasions since independence following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Both countries have on the whole demonstrated much more undemocratic tendences in the recent past. Armenia and Turkey were consistently categorised as “Partly Free” by Freedom House from 2005 to 2015, with medium-to-low rankings of political rights and civil liberties (Freedom House, n.d.). The two countries have been variously characterised as illiberal republics, outright authoritarian, or unconsolidated or competitive authoritarian states at different points during the past two decades.

At the same time, both Armenia and Turkey have managed to develop substantial civil society sectors, with robust social movements galvanising segments of the population in order to influence decision-making from the streets. Ranging from leftist or feminist claims to ecological or human rights concerns, numerous protest movements have marked shifts in the political winds in Armenia and Turkey since the 1990s and 2000s.

This brief study will first discuss conceptual approaches to understanding social movements drawn from Tilly and Tarrow (2015) and Steinberg (1998). The two cases of the Mashtots Park protests in Armenia in 2012 and the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 will then be outlined. The discussion section that follows will compare and contrast how contentious politics over public space in those two urban centres played out. Included among the sources for the discussion are two interviews with first-hand observers and participants (see Appendix B). Finally, concluding thoughts on the causes and consequences of Mashtots and Gezi will be fleshed out in detail. Continue reading

Questions of Academic Freedom in Armenian Studies and Turkish Studies in the United States

Essay for a course on the academy and academic life (Joel Peters)

Questions of Academic Freedom in Armenian Studies and Turkish Studies in the United States

The principle of academic freedom may appear on the surface to offer a carte blanche for all matters of scholarly pursuit, whether to instructors or students, and perhaps even to university administrators. There are a few key questions around which that principle hinges. This essay will take up some of them by investigating the history of the development of Armenian Studies and Turkish Studies in the United States and the controversies that have arisen within and across those disciplines.

Brief Overview

This section draws upon Mamigonian (2013), Ergüneş (2018), Reed (1997), and the websites of the Institute of Turkish Studies, the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association, the Society for Armenian Studies, and the Middle East Studies Association.

Armenian Studies and Turkish Studies have been systematically pursued by European scholars initially under the broader Oriental Studies umbrella since even as early as the late 18th century. It is not difficult to point out the political interests that evidently led to and supported the study of language, culture, religion, and society of the Balkans, Anatolia, Asia Minor, and the Levant. The Great Powers were keen to extend their holdings – the so-called “Eastern Question”. In fact, studying Persian, Arabic, or Turkish philology had an immediate association in many capitals with a career in the foreign service (and in espionage). The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna was founded by Empress Maria Theresia as the Oriental Academy in 1754, serving as a sort of prototype. Well into the 20th century, Oriental Studies university programmes were feeders for the KGB in the USSR. Continue reading