Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Quo Vadis Turkey? Turkey's State Identity Through the Ontological Security Perspective

Piotrowska, Natalia (2021) Quo Vadis Turkey? Turkey's State Identity Through the Ontological Security Perspective. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.88225) (KAR id:88225)


This thesis looks at the ambivalent relationship between Turkey and the West and its impact on Turkey's state identity. It was written at the time when concerns about the West 'losing Turkey' or alternatively Turkey shifting an axis became widespread. I argue that the process of putting in doubt Turkey's position within the West started at the end of the Cold War and was initiated by the West itself. Therefore, what is now understood as a radical change is an outcome of the strategy of the West to make Turkey continuously pursue belonging without granting it due recognition. The aim of this thesis is to shift the analytical attention from 'what Turkey is for the West' or 'how it can be categorized' to account for the ways in which Turkey has responded to its changing position vis-à-vis the West after the end of bipolarity. Analytically, I build on the concept of ontological security, which overcomes the emphasis on structure and the conflation of self and identity encountered in some constructivist scholarship. I approach identity as a 'reflexive project' that requires constant attention to maintain a stable sense of self in a changing world. I put forward that stigmatization related to the status of a latecomer to the modern state system and a liminal position related to the existence of mutually exclusive discourses within this system lead to the development of a fragile sense of ontological security. Consequently, such states become extra-sensitive to concerns regarding belonging, recognition, and status, which shapes their identity and foreign policy. In three case studies, Turkey's pursuit of EU membership, the deteriorating relationship with Israel, and the decision to host Syrian refugees, I study how Turkey's quest for recognition as an equal with its Western counterparts has shaped changes within Turkey's state identity. I show that although Turkey decided to capitalize on its liminal position, which led to a more independent foreign policy and subsequent worries about Turkey's orientation, it still seeks the approval, respect, and recognition of the West.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Loizides, Neophytos
Thesis advisor: Voller, Yaniv
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.88225
Uncontrolled keywords: Turkey Turkey's state identity Turkish foreign policy ontological security stigmatization liminality
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 18 May 2021 10:59 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2022 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Piotrowska, Natalia.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.