Rethinking the Social Philosophy of Multiculturalism: The Case of Antioch
The shift from the political philosophy of multiculturalism to the practical reality of implementing multiculturalism in a political and economic context has been a difficult process – most poignantly for the individuals and groups affected. As this process moves forward it is increasingly important to reconcile the practical lessons from applying multicultural theory with its underlying premises. This has been particularly true in Turkey as Turkish society has experienced fundamental changes over the last quarter century. In the course of the 1980’s, Turkish politics were shaken by the political dissent from the mobilization of ethnic (Kurdish), sectarian (Alevi) and religious (Islamic) identities. Additionally, as Turkey’s accession to the EU became possible, demand for wider recognition sparked a debate over multicultural rights. This paper aims to probe the multicultural debate in Turkey from a bottom-up perspective. The research was centered in Hatay (Antioch) and employed field survey along with qualitative data collection from in-depth interviews in villages and city centers with people from different ethno-religious backgrounds. Jews, Christians, Alevis, Armenians, Kurds, and Arabs were interviewed on the issues of minority and cultural rights and the EU conditionality on the democratization of Turkey. By studying the nature of this debate and its implications in Turkey and by making a case study in the ethnically heterogeneous city of Antioch this study aims to discuss multiculturalism as a universally applicable framework in a nation-state context, understand the perceptions and reactions of people to cultural rights and relate this experience back to the premises of multiculturalism. Many of the results from the field research are surprising and suggest that certain premises of multiculturalism as a universally applicable framework need re-examination. The study does not discredit multicultural theory entirely, but instead provides a vital perspective that may help mold and even strengthen the chances for peaceful coexistence.