The memorialization of conflict in the digital age: A Narrative Study on human rights workers’ perceptions and experiences of digital memory in Turkey

University essay from Malmö universitet/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: Historically, Turkey has always struggled with a deeply divided and conflicted society, in which various political actors but also civil society actors have sought for truth and justice. Against the background of past human rights violations in Turkey and the digital development, human rights workers are confronted with new opportunities and mediums of tools but also with the digital sphere full of risks in their advocacy for human rights. Through narrative thematic analysis focusing on the perceptions and experiences of seven human rights workers at the Truth Justice Memory Center in Istanbul on the construction of digital memory in Turkey, this research touches upon the highly politicized discourse of the struggle for spaces and resources in the memorialization process for recognition. By using a narrative design and a thematic analysis the interview material has been organized and analysed. In regard to the participants of this study, narrative research offers us to make sense of the social world and contribute to the understanding of social agency, which is essential in order to get a deeper insight of personal narratives related to identifications, motivations and choices to work in the sector of digital memorialization and human rights. The results suggest that the active engagement in the human rights sector in Turkey is of utmost importance but yet comes along with risks and threats. The struggle for democracy, solidarity and transitional justice and peace is the drive to get engaged for the participants, who oscillate between an activist and a professional life in their work. While the digital development offers human rights workers new opportunities to monitor and challenge the state’s hegemonic narrative, it is argued that the coercive Turkish state will always hold stronger resources in its hands and jeopardize their work. The digital sphere can also be perceived as an escape or retreat for human rights advocates to remain active during times of political repressions. In the field of Peace and Conflict Studies, this research offers an insight of the crucial role that human rights workers assume in the symbioses and collaboration between grassroots activism and professional human rights work in Turkey.

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