Buket Oztas, a Furman University professor of politics and international affairs, is best known for her expertise in comparative politics, with a regional focus on the Middle East. Perhaps lesser known is her gift for capturing the political climate of place through the lens of a camera. A photo by Oztas graces the cover of the latest issue of Nationalities Papers, a publication of Cambridge University Press.
Oztas also offers this original, unedited interpretation:
“With a nod to Benedict Anderson’s argument that nations are ‘imagined communities,’ this graffiti from the suburbs of Izmir, Turkey, transforms the abstract national identity into an image: an image of a new Turkish nation, devoid of its once-sacred tolerance and hospitality, holding onto a kind of belonging its members from various backgrounds must find harder to sustain as economic conditions worsen and polarization deepens within the country.
“This photo was taken in Izmir, which hosts a large number of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan due to its proximity to Greek islands. This particular neighborhood (Mevlana Mahallesi, separated from the Ege University with the wall on the picture) is home to far more temporary migrants (whether they are Syrians, Kurds, and the Roma) than ethnic Turks but it is hardly a vibrant and cosmopolitan location whose diverse communities coexist in peace. Instead, it is almost a suspended place, between the conflict-ridden past its residents escaped from and the prosperous future they dreamed of.
“Against this backdrop, this powerful image presents a challenge to the state-oriented nationalism: after all, official narratives of Turkish nationalism make barely make any references to the contextual construction of national identities, largely ignoring the link between nation and imagination. Perhaps it was this reluctance to re-imagine the boundaries of the Turkish nation, or all those policies and attempts to normalize their temporary -and inevitably vulnerable- status that led the newcomers to believe that the ‘only good nation is imagination.’”
Oztas joined the Furman faculty in 2017. Her research interests lie in the fields of political Islam and regime transitions in the Islamic world, but she also does research on European Politics, particularly on the changing institutional dynamics of the European Union.
Originally from Izmir, Turkey, Oztas received bachelor’s degrees (2010) from Bilkent University (Turkey) and Binghamton University (New York), and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida in 2016.