Elisabetta Costa photo

Elisabetta Costa

Latest Turkey blog post

Social media and new rewards in learning

Fri, 19 Jun 2015 13:46:53 +0000

  Education has become an important topic of investigation in our comparative research. Last May we also explored and presented our findings in a workshop held at UCL. In Mardin, similarly to field-sites in rural China and Brazil, parents and kids tend to see social media as a dangerous threat to formal education. The education system in Turkey […]


Turkey field site

Turkey streetview

My fieldwork is carried out in a small city of 88000 inhabitants in South-Eastern Turkey, a region inhabited by a majority Kurdish population. The city and the province have in recent years undergone a major transformation that followed the beginning of the post-conflict process between the PKK and the Turkish State. Currently, the town has been expanding and changing, and the population is increasing overall, as a result of both inward migration from rural areas and also the relocation of local inhabitants from the old part of the city to the new, modern neighbourhoods. My research will be carried out in the new part of the city (Yeni-şehir) that started to be constructed 20 years ago and has undergone rapid expansion. People started to move from the old city owing to the comforts afforded by modern housing, such as hydraulic and heating systems. At the moment the new neighbourhood is inhabited by wealthier and younger populations in comparison to the old city. 

This town is particularly peculiar given the coexistence of different religious and ethnic minorities. Muslim Sunni Kurds and Arabs, and Christians Syriacs are the local inhabitants of the city. My research will focus specifically on the Arab population that has always been loyal to the Turkish government and include the traditional elite of the town. They consider themselves to be the native of the city in opposition to the Kurdish population whoa are often portrayed as "rural". My initial propensity is to focus the research on the way social media affects the process of construction and articulation of the Arab minority’s political identities. For example, social media have been used as tools of cultural activism, and Facebook pages have been created to promote a certain image of the city and of the Arab cultural identity. Then social media are used to express support to the AKP government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as happened during the Gezi Protests where Facebook has been used by loyalist and conservative Arabs to criticize and ridicule the protesters. 

I will also investigate the impact of social media in challeging “traditional” relations based on gender segregation and on allegiances to the family. Through the use of Facebook women can get in touch with a “public sphere” that has traditionally excluded them, and they can broaden their social networks in new ways. In a gender segregated society where public and private have always been strictly divided on a gender basis, Facebook can be a very transformative media and it can influence relationships between parents and children, sisters and brothers, nieces and uncles, and cousins. I will be investigating whether and how social media play a role in the process of accommodation of the Arabs (and the kurds) to the homogenizing and modernising project of the Turkish nation-state.

European Research CouncilEuropean UnionUCL Department of Anthropology

Grant number: ERC Project 2011-AdG-295486 SocNet
Project title: Social Network Sites and Social Science