During the path towards a PhD degree, it is undeniable that having a chance to spend some time abroad as a visiting researcher is something that enriches not only the project itself but also the human and professional experience of the candidate. This is even more crucial when one is based at a European University but aims to study specific dynamics that occur at the interlink between Europe and other continents. And this was exactly my case. As my research is centred on Turkish Foreign Policy, working on the field is something vital to obtain relevant and original findings.
Although an overall consensus defines Turkey as one of the most active actors in the current theatres of conflict and competition between states as well as in the use of multiple instruments of soft power, the debate on this evolution has found polarising degrees of understanding. In this respect, my research seeks to demonstrate that Turkish activism in many areas does not emerge as an alternative or as complementary to the Europeanisation process in the region, rather from endogenous and exogenous developments affecting both Turkey and Europe. Indeed, as the country remains a central power in an area of direct European interest, it is crucial – especially in the aftermath of the latest elections that confirmed the AKP in office and several upcoming elections in Europe – to fnd the elements connecting domestic with international dynamics. Moreover, this is meant to provide innovative frameworks to understand if there is still room to reconceptualise Turkish-European relations on the basis of their mutual ‘quest for strategic autonomy’ in times of global turmoil and increased multipolarity.
The Benefits of a UCASE Grant
I truly believe that when one wants to research on specific areas and countries, one should spend as much time as possible in that environment. In my case, this would have not been possible without a UACES grant, which allowed me to prolong my visiting period at Sabancı University, an established University for Contemporary European studies. The supervision of an excellent scholar like Prof. Meltem Müftüler-Baç has definitely boosted my research. During my residency, I had a chance not only to experience a stimulating academic and everyday life ‘on the ground’ but also to actively participate in events and seminars organized within UACES- and EU- funded projects. After the previous months dedicated to refining my project, this grant provided me more time to conduct interviews with different individuals and institutions, which represent a central element of my research as well as an occasion to establish useful networks.
The Way Ahead
Last but not least, despite what was already planned, this period also opened the doors to other opportunities. First, meeting other UACES-supported colleagues in Istanbul created the basis to work with them on parallel research regarding the relations between Turkey and Europe. At the same time, together with my supervisor at Sabancı University, my home University, and with other scholars, we put forward a proposal to create a UACES Research Network that aims to connect experts, people and institutions based in different countries on the Euro-Mediterranean area.
The UACES Microgrant scheme is aimed at supporting research for our Early-Career and Individual Members.
The microgrants scheme will provide grants of between £100 and £500 to UACES members to assist them to cover the costs of undertaking their research. The grants are designed to recognise the challenges facing researchers at this time.