I was always intrigued by the question of justice – 5in10 with Hilal Alkan

Hilal Alkan received her PhD in Political Science from the Open University, UK and her MA in Sociology from Boğaziçi University, Istanbul. In her dissertation, titled “Enchanted Welfare: Islamic Imaginary and Giving to Strangers in Turkey”, she focused on civic charitable initiatives in Turkey. Alongside charitable giving and welfare provision, her research interests include gendered spatial formations (especially urban anthropology), women’s experiences of war, and care ethics. She has been teaching at a number of Turkish universities for the past four years. She is also a member of the Women’s Initiative for Peace, which works on gendering the peace process and documenting gendered rights violations during conflict in Turkey. She is currently a Fellow of Europe in the Middle East—The Middle East in Europe (EUME).

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Hilal Alkan (photo: private)

What was intriguing to you when you were a child? What is it that you always wanted to know about the world?

As a child I was always intrigued by the question of justice. I perfectly remember the images of starving children in Ethiopia, which struck me deeply and made me ask questions: How come some people were so radically poorer than others? What could be the legitimation behind this inequality? Later this curiosity started to cover other aspects of life, like gender related discrimination. I remember being fascinated and enraged by the fact that for some people boys were considered undoubtedly superior to girls.

How would you explain your current research to a stranger in an elevator?

I am working with groups of people who came together in quite informal ways and established loose networks to help Syrian migrants in their neighborhoods in Istanbul. These are very welcoming and compassionate people and most of them refer to their religious beliefs when they need to explain what they are doing. I approach their work as care giving. However as we all know from parent-child relationships or teacher-student relationships care giving often involves disciplining of the other party. So I am asking the question of how Syrian migrants are being disciplined and in what terms by their aid providing neighbors.

Which stations of your academic journey were extremely formative to you?

I received my BA and MA at Boğaziçi University. Boğaziçi had an extraordinarily liberal atmosphere, which bugged some, but also offered great chances to meet people who are not like you or to hear shocking ideas that shake the ground under your feet. The Sociology Department had brilliant scholars, all with a sharp critical eye and well developed theoretical tools. Having been there left its stamp on me. Second I am grateful to have met my PhD supervisor at the Open University, Engin Isin who was not only a superb thinker but also a wonderful mentor.

How is it to do research in Germany?

Just starting, but it seems really promising with the interdisciplinary environment the Forum and the Zentrum Modern Orient provide.

If you had one wish, what would you wish for the further development of your subject?

I would wish to take part in conversations where everybody agrees on suspending unqualified uses of the term neoliberal as a shortcut to evil.

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Citation: Hilal Alkan, „As a child I was always intrigued by the question of justice“ – 5in10 with Hilal Alkan, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 03.01.2017, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/5676


Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien is a research organization that promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. The Forum provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. In cooperation with universities and research institutions in Berlin and the rest of Germany, it carries out research projects that examine other regions of the world and their relationship to Germany and Europe systematically and with new questions.

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