Defne Över

I am a political sociologist interested in the study of human rights, political institutions, and national, religious and ethnic identities. I earned my PhD in 2017 from the Department of Sociology of Cornell University, USA, my MA in 2009 from Humboldt University, Germany, and my BA in 2006 from Boğaziçi University, Turkey. My work centers on a set of important questions raised by the return of repressive regimes and mass mobilization in the 21st century. Specifically, the questions of how do contemporary modes of state control take hold in social relations? How religious and ethnic identities mediate population response to such state control? How do these state-society interactions contest existing legal and cultural institutions? I seek to respond to these questions through a historically and culturally informed analysis of the lived experiences of individuals.
Currently, I work on a book manuscript based on my dissertation “Political Destabilization in Turkey: the Case of Journalism 1980-2013”. The dissertation explores the changing political, economic and cultural contexts of journalistic practice that contribute to the evolution of journalism as a professional field and a medium of the democratic process in Turkey. It sets forth the concept of destabilization as an external factor that transforms social action and institutions. The book based on my dissertation work will provide a historical perspective on the destabilization caused by increasing state repression in Turkey and the resulting institutional decay in the field of journalism.
Besides my book project, I currently work on two other projects: (1) comparative study of high courts’ freedom of expression decisions, (2) comparative study of populist success in and outside Europe. At the Lichtenberg Kolleg I will begin a third project on contested secularism in Turkey. I will explore how the ruling party has shaped public expressions of religious identity among public servants during its fifteen years in office- and, in effect, the cultural and legal institution of secularism in Turkey. I expect this study to contribute to the debate on religion’s increasing public presence, and the debate on populist parties’ role in shaping state-society relations in contemporary times.

Recent Academic Publications

  • Över, Defne; Taraktaş, Başak. 2017. “When Does Repression Trigger Mass Protest? The Case of 2013 Gezi Protests.” Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, 41, 205-239.
  • Över, Defne. 2016. “Cultural Tourism and Complex Histories: The Armenian Akhtamar Church, The Turkish State and National Identity” Qualitative Sociology, 39:2, 173-194.