21 MayResearchAcademic studiesDiaspora2004 | Kaya, Political Participation Strategies

Ayhan Kaya
Political Participation Strategies of the Circassian Diaspora in Turkey, Mediterranean Politics, Vol.9, No.2 (Summer 2004), pp.221–239

This study is an attempt to summarize the political participation strategies generated by the Circassians in Turkey since the 1970s. In depicting those strategies, the institutional channelling theory shall be used. The relevance of this theory in comparison to the class and race/ethnicity theories is that it highlights the importance of the dominant political and legal institutions shaping and limiting the migrants’ choice possibilities. The principal strategies explored in this regard are initially the ideological strategies of the revolutionaries and returnists in the 1970s, then the minority strategy carried out in the 1990s as a reaction against the majority nationalism of the 1980s, and finally the diasporic identity which has become the principal strategizing tool in the last few years. The article explores both theoretical and practical aspects of the diasporic identity with particular reference to the Circassians in Turkey.

Circassians constitute one of the largest ethnic groups living in Turkey. They were not, hitherto, considered by the majority society to be facing any major obstacle since their arrival in Anatolia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. However, recent studies carried out in Turkey demonstrate that it is not only the non-Muslims, Kurds and Alevis who were subject to a kind of structural ‘outsiderism’ with regard to having equal access to political and cultural rights. The common belief in Turkey concerning the Circassians in the country is that they are more privileged than the other ethnic groups. This belief may be correct to a certain extent, but there is not enough scientific data to confirm such a belief. My own qualitative and quantitative research, which I conducted between 2001 and 2003 in various parts of Turkey, predominantly in central Anatolia and Istanbul, indicates that Circassians have also been subject to various exclusionary acts in the nation-building process, the details of which will be given below.

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