Kaşdoğan, Duygu, Ebru Yetişkin, and Maral Erol. 2018. "An Archaeology of STS in Turkey." In STS Across Borders Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August. http://stsinfrastructures.org/content/archaeology-sts-turkey
STS has a fragmented past in Turkey. There is not a monolithic genealogy. This collaborative exhibition aims at exploring the sources of such fragmented and discontinuous past because STS artifacts are mostly distributed, forgotten, and scattered in Turkey.
As IstanbuLab, we have been excavating these STS artifacts so that we can trace their making and we can highlight the factors that caused gaps, discontinuities as well as obstacles against the grounding of STS in Turkey. We treated the archival documents as teaching materials to learn about the foundational stories of STS, and thus, marked some to highlight particular approaches and developments. Our archeological focus on finding out the missing fragments is related with our purpose of stimulating the generation and spread of critical, transdisciplinary and constructive studies of STS in Turkey.
Our ongoing curatorial research is mainly based on participatory observation and unstructured interviews in the field. When we excavated the artifacts of STS in Turkey, we observed that there are two related layers formed on the ground, namely, institutional and intellectual. At a more surface time/space, within the institutional layer, we found educational programs, STS courses and research initiatives that are disintegrated from each other. An organic collaboration and interaction among interested institutions are almost invisible within this layer. At a deeper space/time, within the intellectual layer, we reveal the emergence of publications and events that are related to science and technology but not always directly linked to STS. Although some publications and events were produced by the actors within the institutional layer, the links are considerably weak.
We would also like to draw attention to a number of processes that were prominent in the beginnings of STS in Turkey. In the late 1990s, Turkey was in a process of integration to the European Higher Education Area as well as aspiring towards building a knowledge-based society. We witnessed the emergence and (dis)continuity of STS educational programs, and science and technology policy-oriented research along with the integration process of Turkey to the European Union.
We also found out that these educational programs were designed in connection with particular international relations. However, these efforts, as in the case of the ESST-related STS MA program at Istanbul Technical University, were not sustainable, especially given the lack of financial resources to support collaborative teaching at an international level along with the economic crises of 1999, 2001 and 2008. The fact that STS graduates could not be integrated in local STS education programs as academic staff was one of the sustainability problems of STS in Turkey. Another facet of this sustainability problem was the uninterrupted human-centered approach in the social sciences and humanities.
As an independent research initiative, IstanbuLab emerged as consequences of such gaps and problems faced in the process of the institutionalization of STS in Turkey. By revealing the archeology of STS in Turkey, we aim to diagnose such problems and navigate through the unexplored ways of doing STS in a transnational context.
İstanbul & İzmir, 2018
I. Meta-Narrative: An archaeology of STS in Turkey
II. IstanbuLab: Science, Technology, and Society Platform in Turkey
III. Institutional Layers of STS in Turkey
IV. Intellectual Layers of STS in Turkey
IstanbuLab (Science, Technology, and Society Platform in Turkey) was established in 2016, and held its first official meeting in January, 2017 at Koç University in Istanbul. On a cold day, a small group of people, who had been engaged with STS in one way or another, sat together and discussed the ways to build an infrastructure for such a platform. In the first 6 months, through the monthly meetings, a group of people continued to discuss various issues ranging from the name of the platform to its red lines, from membership to its focus. In this first period, people began to learn about and from each other, became friends, and more importantly, enjoyed time spent together: we read articles together, shared our different ways of engagements with STS, discussed why and how we do STS in Turkey, developed collective research projects, and so on. And, at the end of this period, we were ready to launch our website.
*The image is the logo of IstanbuLab designed by Istanbul-based visual artist Mehmet Kurtuluş Tuncer in support of this newly established, independent STS initiative.
Since the members of IstanbuLab are located in different universities, in different cities, and even, in different countries, we were in need of a collective space: the idea of launching a website emerged out of such a need. The monthly meetings organized in different places -meeting rooms at our affiliated universities, our homes, coffee-shops - have been proving us temporal collective spaces. We decided that the only way for such a group to create a permanent location was in a virtual environment.
The content of the website was prepared collectively, and designed as a partially dynamic and bilingual platform.* The site is constituted of seven main pages: 1) About - provides a general information about IstanbuLab's mission and vision; 2) People - contains information about group members; 3) Research -outlines research areas and research projects; 4) Blog - this is the most active page (Aybike Alkan and Mehmet Ekinci are coordinating the publication process); 5) STS -page provides general information about STS in the world and in Turkey, especially for the ones new in the field; 6) Events - where we announce the public events organized by IstanbuLab; 7) Contact.
*Aybike Alkan and Duygu Kaşdoğan put generous labor during the installation and maintenance processes.
Feminist technoscience has been an important theme that informed our conversations from the beginning, as well as being a common theoretical and research interest for many members (https://stsistanbul.org/areas/). As such, one of the first projects for our blog happened to be dedicated to interviews with scholars in this field.
Feminist technoscience (FSTS) interview series is a blog project among other projects such as interview series with STS scholars in Turkey and translation of related articles/pieces into Turkish.
FSTS interview series was launched in April 2018 with the publication of an interview with Michelle Murphy, over her recent book "The Economization of Life.", conducted by Duygu Kaşdoğan. It was followed by a second interview with Marilyn Strathern, entitled "On the partible person, the relational individual and the multiplicities of kinship" and conducted by Onur Arslan (June 2018). The most recent one in the series is the interview conducted by Aybike Alkan with Hélène Mialet: "Articulating the Scientist as a distributed-centered subject" (August 2018).
In 2018, IstanbuLab launched an event series entitled "Science, Technology, Society Talks", curated by Ebru Yetişkin and Duygu Kaşdoğan.
Science, Technology, Society Talks aims to introduce STS in Turkey as well as increasing the democratic participation of public into the collective production of science, technology, and society with a focus on contemporary issues/discussions.
This event series is held four times a year in the months of April-May and November-December. The guests from Turkey and abroad have a conversation with the audience around a specific theme. 2018 events are sponsored by the art center Akbank Sanat, located in Beyoğlu, İstanbul.
The image on the left is the poster of the first event:*
April 2018 | Social Media Abyss | Dutch media theorist and internet critic Geert Lovink was the first guest of the Science, Technology, Society Talks. In this event, Lovink, in conversation with Ebru Yetişkin, talked about the relation of social media to power-knowledge production from a critical perspective on the basis of his book Social Media Abyss, which is recently translated into Turkish and published by the Otonom Press. By focusing on the role of social media in the construction of power relations and social conflicts, the ways to construct a democratic and free society with and against social media were discussed.
*Poster design by Mehmet K. Tuncer.
This image is the poster of the second event in the series:
May, 2018 | "A Laboratory" under scope | The second event of Science, Technology, Society Talks organized by IstanbuLab, and moderated by Maral Erol, opened a conversation with Prof. Dr. Reşit Canbeyli over the tradition of experimentalism and laboratories on the basis of his story of building a laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Boğaziçi University. “A Laboratory” Under Scope underlined that scientific interest cannot be limited to a summary of what others have done, and science cannot be seen as a linear practice devoid of failures and emotions. This talk emphasized the importance of laboratories to inspire young generations while activating an enthusiasm and passion for science and criticized the myth of lacking infrastructure, that is, the most important obstacle in Turkish scientific development.
The first STS collection in Turkey was published by the journal Toplum ve Bilim in July 2018. This issue entitled "Bilim, Teknoloji, Toplum" [Science, Technology, Society], and edited by Duygu Kaşdoğan, Maral Erol and Özgür Narin, is also the first collective publication work undertaken by IstanbuLab members with the aim to introduce STS as a field of study/discipline to the Turkish audience in response to the lack of introductory level written material This special issue did not aim to represent the field of STS in one way or another but rather be a modest contribution towards the development of intellectual infrastructure of STS in Turkey.
The issue opens with an article entitled "An introduction for Science, Technology and Society Studies" that tells a story of STS in terms of its emergence and configuration in the world as well as providing the first findings of archaeological excavation towards understanding intellectual and institutional genealogies of STS in Turkey.
The following three articles continue deepening a number of discussions in STS at theoretical/conceptual levels, such as actor-network theory, feminist technoscience, public understanding of scientific and technological controversies, science and art. The rest of the articles are organized thematically: 1) experts and infrastructures; 2) biology and biotechnologies; and 3) industry and production relations. Abstracts in English are available here, and below is the list of article titles and authors in the dossier:
An introduction for Science, Technology and Society Studies | HACER ANSAL - MEHMET EKİNCİ - DUYGU KAŞDOĞAN
A laboratory, yet another: Nettachmental curating | EBRU YETİŞKİN
Social movements, networks and body | ÖZNUR KARAKAŞ
“Gendering” science and technology: Feminist Science and Technology Studies | MARAL EROL
Infrastructures in Science and Technology Studies: The black box of GAP | AYBİKE ALKAN
The science of uncertainty: The expected Istanbul Earthquake and the anthropology of experts | EBRU KAYAALP - ONUR ARSLAN
Eugenics as a “modern” technology and genetic sciences in the twenty-first century | MURAT ERGİN
Making families in secrecy: Seeking forbidden biotechnologies as last resort abroad | BURCU MUTLU
Bioeconomy: A thought experiment on the “political economy of life” | DUYGU KAŞDOĞAN
Industry 4.0 and its impact on employment: Can it be an opportunity for women? | HACER ANSAL - NİHAN YILDIRIM
A discussion on the implications and limits of Industry 4.0: Is “online capitalism” possible? | ÖZGÜR NARİN
Since the first official meeting of IstanbuLab in January 2017, the lab has made good progress towards developing STS in Turkey through volunteer, collective and transnational efforts. The organization of the lab is based on the ethics of care, commons, and collaboration. In Fall and Spring terms, monthly regular meetings are held to discuss current and future projects. The lab also hosts interested individuals/collectives during the monthly meetings from time to time to strengthen the collaboration culture. Twice a year, retreat meetings are organized so as to reflect on the past process, develop current projects, and create new ideas.
Currently, the lab gets coordinated through seven working groups (academic research; academic publication; academic events; public events; social events; website/blog; and, transnational STS). To facilitate the collaborative work process, a coordinator is attained to each working group, with a 6 month rotation.
IstanbuLab aspires to contribute towards the development of the intellectual infrastructure of STS in Turkey and beyond. To do so, lab members put generous labor beyond individual interests. Plans for its future direction involve efforts to strengthen ties with other transnational STS programs, networks, and projects, as well as fostering further communication and collaboration with scholars who work in and/or about Turkey.
Established in 2016, IstanbuLab provides a collaborative and transdisciplinary research space for academics, activists, and artists engaged in the social studies of science and technology within the Turkish context and beyond. By generating and prioritizing collective research environments, IstanbuLab aspires to stimulate the generation and spread of critical and constructive studies of Science, Technology, and Society (STS) in Turkey.
STS and STS-related educational and research programs are not widespread in Turkey, especially given the fact that “Science, Technology, and Society” and/or “Science and Technology Studies” has yet to be acknowledged neither as a discipline nor as a field of associate professorship* by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) in Turkey. Nevertheless, there have been considerable initiatives to establish graduate programs in STS as well as in related fields.
For this part of the exhibit related to STS graduate programs, we decided to highlight three main programs: 1) Science and Technology Policy Studies at Middle East Technical University (METU), in Ankara (1997-ongoing); 2) Science, Technology, and Society at Istanbul Technical University (ITU), in Istanbul (2000-2006); and, 3) Science, Technology, and Society at ITU (2016-ongoing). All these graduate-level educational programs are/were in English. In this text, we also list other related grad programs.
Our selection of these three programs for this exhibit is not arbitrary. The graduate program at METU -that is also closely linked to the “Research Center for Science and Technology Policies” established under the Office of President at the same university- stands as the first educational program in the social studies of science and technology. The MA programs in Science, Technology, and Society, which were launched in different time periods at ITU, have been the only STS degree programs with a thesis requirement.
Although there had been a similar rationale behind the establishment of these three programs, the differences, and thus, pluralities of these programs need to be emphasized, e.g., with regard to the context in which they emerged and local and transnational networks through which these programs became possible.
In 2016, the Master’s Degree program in “Science, Technology, and Society” was launched under the Institute of Social Sciences at Istanbul Technical University (ITU) with the initiative of Prof. Dr. Mehmet Karaca (president of the university) and Prof. Dr. Aydan Turanlı (director & program coordinator). Currently, it is the only MA program with the name of STS in Turkey. This program has also established Erasmus+ connections with “Science Studies” Master’s Degree Program of Aarhus University, Denmark and “Science and Technology Studies” Master’s Degree program of Munich Technical University, Germany.
ITU STS endeavors “to widen the borders of knowledge in science, technology, and arts and fulfill the needs of society with the applications of this knowledge,” as it is noted on its website. The program is designed to help in understanding and solving “ ethical, social, cultural and political problems created in the complicated structure of modern technological society.”
STS Program @ Işık University
STS has yet to be institutionalized as an educational undergraduate program in Turkey, given that it is still not recognized by the Higher Education Council. In such a context, Işık University has been the first private university in Turkey to offer a substantial number and range of STS courses through the "Science, Technology, and Society" branch at the Department of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The decision to open the STS program originated in 2005, with the strategic plan of the university prepared during the presidency of Prof. Dr. Ersin Kalaycıoğlu. Upon this idea, the Prof. Önder Pekcan, who was the dean of Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the time, suggested Prof. Dr. Hacer Ansal as the person for this job (and his former colleague from ITU), based on her role in the ITU STS Program. Hacer Ansal left her job at ITU for Işık, with the aim of starting an undergraduate program of STS. However, as the program she prepared was being discussed in the university senate, the idea that STS was not a well-known field in Turkey and it would be more appropriate to have it as a branch under a more general Humanities and Social Sciences department prevailed. The program was revised accordingly and started to accept students in 2007.
Despite the small number of STS and STS-related educational programs in Turkey, there are considerable STS courses offered by different departments at various universities. The earlier attempts to teach STS courses go back to the 1990s, when the course "Science, Technology, and Society" began to be offered to the engineering students at Bilkent University, Ankara. Professor Haldun M. Ozaktas reflects back on this process in his article entitled "Teaching Science, Technology, and Society to Engineering Students: A Sixteen Year Journey" (2013). There, he explains the motive behind the opening of an STS course at Bilkent for engineering students as such (p. 1440):
During the early nineties, gaining ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation became a goal for elite universities in Turkey. Until that time the need for incorporating ethics or social dimensions courses in engineering programs had not been felt by most institutions. ABET clearly specified this as an essential component, but there was neither any institutional experience nor examples to follow in Turkey. I took this opportunity to propose this course in 1995 and since then it has been the key course in meeting ABET requirements on ethics and social dimensions.
When we examine the published materials in Turkish, it is really hard to talk about the existence of a standalone STS literature in Turkey. Nevertheless, we can find STS-related writings that have been shaped in the different field of studies, among which the history of science and technology occupy a considerable space.*
When it comes to the discussions of science and technology in relation to social issues, we first witness the emergence of a literature by the 1960s, at the times of the First Five-Year Development Plan (1963-1967), which made visible science, technology and society relations at the policy level.
By the 1960s in Turkey, science and technology came to be evaluated as a means towards social and economic development. Research conducted at different universities, especially in the fields of economics/development economics, varied in time and came to shape science and technology policies in the light of new theories, concepts, and methods.
This piece is in Turkish and introduces an intellectual genealogy of STS in Turkey. This document is an excerpt from the article written to introduce STS to the Turkish audience as well as reflecting first efforts in providing a genealogical analysis of STS in Turkey. The full article is...Read more