Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Radio-Television and Film, University of Texas / Austin
Internet Cafes in the Neighborhood: Politics of Virtuality, Intimacy, and Publicness

The Alevi, a heterodox sect of Islam, is the largest minority group in Turkey, yet it has been marginalized from social and political life in the Turkish Republic. My research explores the role of internet cafes in creating new modes of sociability and forms of subjectivity within the Alevi community in Turkey. More specifically, by investigating the social significance of Internet cafes in the everyday life of Alevi neighborhood-Gazi District, I will develop an understanding of the articulation of technology, social space and power. This study provides a close analysis of internet cafes by focusing on institutional and commercial discourses surrounding the Internet; the state's intervention and surveillance of social and virtual spaces; and Alevis' practices and beliefs concerning Internet technology and Internet cafes. Today, there are more than 10,000 Internet cafes in Turkey and recently, they have become the new targets of state's surveillance. According to the law (2000), police are authorized to search and confiscate Internet cafes in order to protect "national security, public order, health and decency." These new regulatory policies challenge the characterization of cyberspace as a democratic electronic frontier open to all. This study focuses on the role of technology as a link between ethnic identity and public life in Turkey with the goal of answering the following questions: How do Alevi identity politics get reconfigured and articulated in the online world and its offline surroundings? How do members of the Alevi community use the Internet in their everyday lives, and how do they challenge or negotiate state surveillance in new technologically mediated public places? How does the presence of the Internet in a social place configure spatial and temporal layouts of coffeehouses, and to what extend does it challenge their social conventions and existing power structures?