The proposed joint project by the European Institute at Istanbul Bilgi University in collaboration with the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research, University Duisburg-Essen entitled `Distant Neighbors: Exploring Political Narratives and Visual Culture in Turkish-German Relations?' aims to explore the development of Turkish- German relations through a detailed empirical analysis of competing and/or shared political narratives in the German and Turkish context in order to show how they have shaped the contemporary perception of befriended, but rather `distant neighbors. The two-year personal exchange programme is funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). A first Worskhop will take place at the Centre in Duisburg in July 2023.
Based on previous work and preliminary empirical studies, we use the starting thesis that the various political narratives on the Turkish-German relationship differ between elite and everyday discourses in both countries. Whereas the elite discourses in both countries and their political decision- makers mainly operate with narratives that (re-)produce a distant relationship in terms of pragmatic cooperation and interest-based politics, the everyday discourses and their cultural protagonists (film makers, musicians, artists) share many political narratives and emphasize transnational and culturally hybrid identities in both countries. Our interest in studying both elite and everyday forms of narration derives from the tentative observation that international (i.e. official) relations between Germany and Turkey haven often been strained, while transnational (i.e. society-level) relations may have been much friendlier at the same time. In this context, Frank Gadinger speaks of a "hopeful normative note" to the project. A loosely comparative study of both arenas will allow to show 1) how storytelling differs between the elite and public/societal level and 2) whether identities that emerge in these stories may differ between the official and everyday discourse.