Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

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The Great Secession: Ethno-National Rebirth and the Politics of Turkish–German Belonging

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Abstract:  Germany is facing a contemporary mainstreaming of the far right, which has a long tradition of wanting “Turks out!” Turkish immigrants have been the main strangers in Germany following the guest-worker treaty signed in 1961, physically close as friends, yet culturally distant as foes. From September 2015 onwards, German–Turkish politics of belonging, the Turkish issue, underwent a contentious period resulting in secessions between German and Turkish authorities in September 2017. Against this background, this article asks: How did mainstream political actors in Germany emplot the Turkish issue while a far-right challenger party sought to establish a far-right narrative of ethno-national rebirth? The temporal unfolding of the Turkish issue is explored by drawing on media analysis (n = 1120), interpretive process-tracing and narrative genre analysis of claims raised by political actors in German and Turkish newspapers. In order to visualize how the Turkish issue evolved between 2000 and 2017 in media discourse, 546 articles in the mainstream quality newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung were collected. The Great Secession period between 2015 and 2017 was selected for an in-depth case study. To conduct interpretive process-tracing and narrative genre analysis of this case, another 574 articles in the German Süddeutsche Zeitung and Turkish Hürriyet were analysed. In so doing, this article contributes to (1) the study of belonging and identity by adopting a novel approach to boundary studies, combining narrative genre analysis with Habermas’ communicative action theory, and (2) the study of political strategies of adapting, ignoring or demarcating far-right contenders by, again, introducing a narrative approach to political communication and mobilization processes. The analysis shows that, in the first stage of the Great Secession period, inclusionary and exclusionary boundaries competed, while in later stages inclusionary boundaries were cast aside by exclusionary boundaries after reputable mainstream party-political actors adopted and thus legitimized far-right story elements.

Keywords:  belonging; boundary studies; exclusion; far right; Germany; identity; immigrant integration; inclusion politics; narrative theory; Turkey



© Özgür Özvatan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.