Preface: On repetition

The preface presents the main research questions of the book, arguing that the history of Turkish-Greek relations has been marked by a continuous repetition: the swaying of a pendulum between crises and reconciliations; violent or brink-of-war episodes and efforts for rapprochement; or, in other terms, enmity and friendship. The entire history of Greek-Turkish relations then, as the author argues, can be observed from the perspective of the efforts for rapprochement, a viewpoint that reveals the parallel swing of another pendulum marking its terrain: excitement and boredom; i.e. the excitement of new actors involved in the peace movement in different historical moments, and the boredom of those who see their hopes and visions for a final settlement of bilateral disputes and tensions as constantly annulled. It is this enduring movement of the double pendulum that sets the background context of the book’s object of study: the efforts for ‘friendship’ between ‘Greeks’ and ‘Turks’.

 

Introduction: Greek-Turkish Friendship reiterated

The introduction provides the necessary methodological and theoretical foundation as well as historical and empirical evidence to justify the adoption of the collocation ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ as a prism through which one can critically observe the entire history of Turkish-Greek relations. The introduction presents a genealogy of the discourse on ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ since 1923. It shows that an important shift took place in 1974, after the clash of Turkish and Greek nationalisms over Cyprus, which transformed ‘Turkish-Greek friendship’ into a motto acquiring competing political and ideological contents. The two parts of the book highlight exactly how such different content shaped the conditions for the growth of rapprochement initiatives but also created predicaments and setbacks.

 

Part I: Spectres of the Left

The first part of the book offers an original comparative analysis of the shifts taking place within Turkish and Greek left-wing politics and explores the pivotal role of the radical and institutional Left in building solidarity and communication networks, and shaping a unique message for the ‘friendship between the people of Greece and Turkey’ between 1974 and 1996. It then examines the reasons for the declining role of the Left as pro-rapprochement actor during the period 1996-2013.

 

1 Comrades, Democrats, Friends…Shared Spectres

Presenting rich information about the political history of the Left in the two states, the chapter foregrounds the conditions that made possible the flourishing of a culture of cooperation between Turkish and Greek Left-wing groups and activists after 1974. Theoretically drawing from the poststructuralist tradition, mainly the work of Jacques Derrida and the concept of the ‘spectre’, the chapter explains the constitution of the Left as a vanguard of the ‘Greek-Turkish friendship of the people’. It argues that visions about the Left, democracy and friendship developed alike in both Greek and Turkish societies during the late 1970s and early 1980s and were, consequently, transformed into spectres ‘haunting’ each other, i.e. the one linked inseparably with the other in political discourse and practices. This triple spectre (the Left, democracy and friendship), argues the author, became the condition of possibility for the development of several other initiatives for Greek-Turkish rapprochement during the 1980s and 1990s.

 

2 Radicalising Rapprochement: Friendship Through Struggles

The second chapter turns to the outcome of these conditions of possibility. It examines the role of the radical Left in reconciliation processes by presenting the unearthed archive and the previously undisclosed history of a small radical Left association formed by Turkish political refugees and their Greek supporters in Athens in the aftermath of the Turkish military coup of September 1980. The exploration of the association’s history as a case study reveals the construction of a new Turkish-Greek hybrid identity structured upon an articulation between friendship, comradeship and hospitality. This project for a new political subjectivity, the chapter argues, discloses significant potentialities for challenging nationalism through an innovative relation between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, but also exposes its own limitations and challenges.

 

3 Frontiers in Différance: Political and Spatial Proximities at the Aegean Coasts

The outcome of extensive archival research in the local newspapers and libraries of several Turkish Aegean coastal towns and neighbouring Greek islands, as well as of interviews with many of the involved actors, chapter three reveals the history of a growing network of cross-border communication built by Left and centre-Left local governments during the 1980s and 1990s. Reflecting on the different visions on the political offered by Carl Schmitt and Jacques Derrida, the chapter argues that the emergence of such initiatives was made possible by what the author calls a deferring of frontiers. In other words, it shows that a cross-border political frontier between nationalism and pacifism managed to unite segments of the local Greek and Turkish societies and helped them to overcome the density of the national frontiers that separated them.

 

4 An Uncanny Spectre? Haunting Friendship(s), Haunting Responsibilities

The last chapter in Part I returns to the concept of the spectre, exploring the remnants of the visions of the Left in the post-1999 era. This was an era when Greek-Turkish relations had launched their path towards normalisation and ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ had become a popular discourse taken up by political and business elites, cultural NGOs and civil society groups, thus abandoning its previously radical character. The chapter provides a comparative account of the transformation of many significant political actors of the Left—in both Turkey and Greece—who, on the eve of the millennium, engulfed by a discourse of anti-imperialist nationalism, had turned from vibrant supporters to vehement critics of ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’. Based on the ethnographic study of several contemporary initiatives, the chapter concludes by pinpointing the remainders of the triple spectre (friendship, democracy and the Left), echoing a call for the responsibilities of the Left to preserve its internationalist visions for peace against nationalistic deviations.

 

Part II: Towards A 'Civil Society' of Friendship

The second part of the book re-examines the same period (1974-2013), focusing on political discourses that contributed to the emergence of practices favouring ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’, but that were different from those invoked by the Left. It examines the genealogy of such projects—mostly related to liberal-oriented or post-political visions for regional peace—and explores the conditions that enabled their growth to socio-political hegemony in the post-1999 era.

 

5 Aspect Dawning, Cultural Extimacy and the (Anti) Politics of Friendship

Chapter five sheds light on the emergence of innovative passionate visions infused into ‘Turkish-Greek friendship’ by groups of intellectual elites in Istanbul and Athens between 1974 and the mid-1990s. Utilising a detailed comparative research of Turkish and Greek sources (newspapers, personal archives, interviews), the chapter explores the history of one of the most long-standing non-governmental institutions in the field of Turkish-Greek rapprochement—the Abdi İpekçi Friendship and Peace Prize—and also investigates the significance of the two mirror associations of ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ established in Athens and Istanbul, respectively. The chapter examines the conditions that triggered the emergence of such initiatives, utilising the concept of aspect dawning, drawn from Aletta Norval’s Wittgensteinian political theory. Aspect dawning helps us to capture the moment of surprise when the image of the ‘other’, i.e. the ‘Turk’ in the eyes of a ‘Greek’ and vice versa, is suddenly transformed from a radical stranger to someone who appears as culturally the ‘same’ and thus befriendable. The author introduces the term cultural extimacy in order to explain the affective tensions resulting from such encounters at the crossroads of politics and culture. The chapter concludes by assessing the efforts of the initiatives explored to create spaces of communication beyond political frontiers. It shows that despite the significant contribution of these initiatives to building ties between segments of the two societies, they were often led to the utterance of parallel monologues of ‘friendship’.

 

6 'Friendship' as an Empty Signifier: (E)merging Political Grammars

Based on a large number of interviews with involved activists and on detailed research into national and local presses, this chapter focuses on the period between 1996 and 1999, offering a new critical explanation for the proliferation of pro-rapprochement initiatives after the eruption of the Imia/Kardak Island dispute crisis in 1996. The author suggests that, instead of a completely new phenomenon that many scholars have observed as the ‘birth’ of a ‘Greek-Turkish civil society’, that what actually occurred during this period was the merging of already existing—and the emerging of new—political ‘grammars’ of rapprochement. This shift took place through a reshuffling of the meanings and practices attached to ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ as well as through a reshuffling of activists into new configurations, groups and associations around new political signifiers like ‘civil society’, ‘EU’, and ‘common interests’.

 

7 A 'Civil Society' of Friendship: Between Excitement and Boredom

The last chapter of the book focuses on the period between 1999 and 2013 when ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ became a widely celebrated motto, following the mutual exchange of disaster relief after two consecutive deadly earthquakes hit both countries in 1999. This chapter utilises a three-year long multi-sited ethnographic research within several initiatives, presenting a closer view of the involvement of a new generation of actors, examining their way of conceiving and performing the revived call for ‘friendship’ through the effort to expand and consolidate a common Greek-Turkish ‘civil society’. The chapter ends by showing that, in a context where ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ had become an over-circulated slogan taken up by political and business elites and the media, the visions connected to it started growing weary. This led to what the author calls an aspect dusk, i.e. a condition in which ‘Greek-Turkish friendship’ lost its affective/emotional power as a political message able to stimulate excitement and the passion for consolidating peace and led—more often than not—to boredom.


 

List of visual material

Images, photos and figures

0.1 ‘We call it Greek’ – ‘I do not forget’ campaigns of the 1970’s 
in Greece
1.1 ‘Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean Region’ conference, Athens, 1978
1.2 ‘People of Greece and Turkey are brothers’, Bursa, 1980
1.3 Friendship through music: Z. Livaneli, M. Theodorakis, M. Farantouri
2.1  Solidarity rally in Athens in the aftermath of the coup d’état
in Turkey
2.2  Turkish refugees protest in Athens in 1983
2.3  Cover of EAMLET’s booklet on Cyprus
3.1  Meeting of members of the Greek and the Turkish Left at the
Dikili Peace Festival, 1990
3.2  Dikili Peace Festival 1988
3.3  Common environmental protest for the Aegean, 1993
3.4  Chios–Çeşme town-twinning announcement, 1995
4.1  ‘Alexis you are my brother’, stencil, Istanbul 2008
4.2  EPTAKSIM - Placard outside the Greek National Television building (ERT),
June 2013 .
5.1  Announcement of the Abdi Ipekçi Friendship and Peace
Prize, 1979
5.2  Sending off the Hora/Sismik I
5.3 Abdi Ipekçi Friendship and Peace Prize photo selection
5.4 Announcement of the establishment of the Turkish–Greek
Friendship Association
5.5 References to Venizelos and Atatürk
5.6 Abdi I.pekçi Friendship and Peace Prize: number of awards per committee
7.1 Turkcell campaign on Turkish–Greek friendship, May 2005
7.2 Town twinning initiatives launched, 1990–2010

Tables

0.1  ‘Friendship’ and pairs of conflict. Web hits comparative table
0.2  ‘Friendship’, ‘rapprochement’, ‘cooperation’. Web hits  comparative table
7.1 Greek official development assistance (ODA) to Turkey, 2001–2009 206
7.2 List of town twinning initiatives

Maps

The Aegean Sea
Turkey and Greece

 

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