Why Do We Need to Innovate STS in Turkey?


In a country where STS lacks institutional grounding, “innovating STS” becomes a need more than a motivation/desire to do STS in different ways. This exhibition invites STS scholars across borders to re-think about the legitimacy of STS in different parts of the world: What makes STS legitimate as a field of study/discipline? In which contexts, how, and by whom does STS get acknowledged and/or embraced? What are the roles of “institutions” in rendering STS as a legitimate field of study? These questions have been constantly popping up while we have been trying to find ways to do STS in Turkey in a collective manner (as part of IstanbuLab) since the beginning of 2017. 

Following the digital collection we prepared last year -An Archaeology of STS in Turkey” - that was focused much more on the endeavors to institutionalize STS in Turkey as well as based on our experiences as members of IstanbuLab, we have realized that the lack of institutional support for STS in our country has forced us to innovate STS in a particular way: We have mostly tried to do STS in a “public space” rather than in university settings, though being occasionally applied to university-based institutional support (e.g., reserving space for our meetings; hosting scholars from abroad, etc.). Such an experience leads us to make a provocative argument: STS can gain its legitimacy not through getting institutionalized but through taking shape in “public spaces.” Stated differently, we want to trouble the idea of “putting STS into practice” through spreading STS from academy to different spheres of life ranging from policy to art, to activism. We suggest that STS can be acknowledged as a transdisciplinary way to make sense of technoscientific worlds towards building socially just, and ecologically sustainable life through forming informal connections on the ground among actors who are troubled with neoliberal institutions, seek for “truth” and persist in regenerating life. Perhaps, we need to revolutionize STS more than innovating the field by relieving it from toxic institutions... Saluting Hasan Ünal Nalbantoğlu!*

To deepen our thinking about the significance/necessity and possibilities/limitations of institutionalizing STS in Turkey,  we wanted to extend two main essays in the last year’s collection - namely, “TEKPOL @ METU (1997 - ONGOING)” & “STS @ ITU (2000-2006)” - through attending to personal narratives. In this regard, we invited Prof. Hacer Ansal, one of the founders and the directors of the STS Program at ITU, to contribute to this collection. She wrote an essay that tells a story about how the program got launched and why it got closed. This essay is not only significant to locate past and present limitations towards institutionalizing STS in Turkey but also could be approached as an archival material of this program for future generations, who would be interested in listening to personal stories behind institutional constitutions. 

We also made separate interviews with Prof. Erkan Erdil, Prof. Teoman Pamukçu, and Assoc. Prof. Semih Akçomak, who are faculty members at METU-TEKPOL, via Skype. We still work on a video that is based on these interviews, which will be included in this collection later. These interviews have been illuminating to better understand the contributions of TEKPOL in science and technology policy-making processes in Turkey. What we have found significant in these interviews to underline here is that this graduate program is open to students coming from different disciplines as well as institutions. Most of the students in this program work in public institutions, and the courses that they take together provide an environment for informal conversations to learn from each other about recent developments in their institutions. Such informal conversations/connections seem to play an important role in science and technology policy-making, especially given the lack of coordination among related public institutions in Turkey. All in all, these interviews have also reminded us of the importance of institutional home for a sustainable way of producing knowledge in the field of STS, especially through training students. 

* Prof. Hasan Ünal Nalbantoğlu (1947 - 2011) was one of the prominent sociologists in Turkey.  His extensive critical writings on knowledge, science, and universities have shaped not only our thinking but also the way we approach doing science in Turkey “against the tide.”


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Contributed date

August 23, 2019 - 3:03pm

Critical Commentary

This text seeks an answer to the question of why we need to innovate STS in Turkey by focusing on the limitations of the institutional setting and the efforts to overcome these limitations. 



Cite as

Duygu Kaşdoğan, "Why Do We Need to Innovate STS in Turkey? ", contributed by Duygu Kasdogan and Aybike Alkan, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 23 August 2019, accessed 9 December 2022. http://www.stsinfrastructures.org/content/why-do-we-need-innovate-sts-turkey