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The local production of welfare humanitarianism in neoliberal Turkey

F. Gizem Zencirci, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The primary research question that guides this dissertation is: What is the relationship between neoliberalism and welfare governance? In contrast to the idea that market reforms bring the destruction of social welfare provision, I argue that market reforms are actually accompanied by new practices of—public and private—giving. An analysis of a wide range of welfare institutions and their practices, ethics and ideas about poverty, equality and generosity in Turkey highlights that processes of economic liberalization produce new paradigms of welfare governance, instead of dismantling it. ^ This dissertation utilizes interpretive and ethnographic methods through a case-study of state and non-state social service provision in Turkey in order to answer this question. During a 14-month fieldwork in Turkey between June 2009-August 2010 I participated in the volunteer meetings, fundraising events and assistance distribution days of religious and secular charity organizations, met with the volunteers, teachers and beneficiaries of university social responsibility programs and corporate philanthropy projects. The empirical data consists of 72 in-depth (structured as well as open-ended) interviews with a range of informants, archival materials concerning the historical evolution of social policy in Turkey from 1930 to 2010 and other brochures, pamphlets and media artifacts related to welfare policy. ^ Accordingly, this dissertation presents two main arguments. First, it posits that, market reforms instead of destroying welfare structures and cultures, actually create a humanitarian notion of welfare, which I define as welfare humanitarianism. Second I argue against the diffusion hypothesis which claims that neoliberal technologies of governance travel from the global to the local. In contrast, this dissertation emphasized the local production of neoliberalism. Such an analytical perspective highlights the ways in which neoliberal modes of governance shape and is shaped by local political projects. Lastly, by comparing how secularist and Islamist political groups have discussed the topic of `social policy' in Turkey, I argue that instead of a `divide', these two political constituencies are actually bound by a shared understanding about state, society and economy.^

Subject Area

Political science|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Zencirci, F. Gizem, "The local production of welfare humanitarianism in neoliberal Turkey" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3556305.