Turkuler Isiksel is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Columbia University.

About Turkuler Isikel

Turkuler Isiksel is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University and works primarily in contemporary political theory. In her scholarship, Isiksel focuses on the ways in which descriptive and normative categories tailored to the nation-state context might be adapted to postnational institutions. Her research interests include constitutional theory, sovereignty, citizenship, and human rights, as well as the evolution of ideas about commerce and international politics in the 18th century.

Before joining the political science faculty at Columbia, Isiksel held a Jean Monnet postdoctoral fellowship at the newly established Global  Governance Program at the European University Institute in Florence. She is currently working on a book manuscript on constitutionalism beyond the state, with a particular focus on the European Union’s legal order.

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Between text and context: Turkey’s tradition of authoritarian constitutionalism

Constitutionalism is often understood to mean more than mere adherence to the formal terms of the constitution. Beyond this, it is usually associated with a core set of principled commitments that structure the exercise of political power and, in doing so, render it legitimate. That said, it is possible to imagine a political system that adheres to the terms of the constitution without meeting basic standards of democracy, fundamental rights, human dignity, justice, or equality. This paper will examine just such a constitutional order. With the example of the 1982 Turkish constitution in mind, it will ask whether and how far it is possible to liberalize a political system overseen by an authoritarian constitution. This question is a variant of the parchment barriers problem insofar as it interrogates the extent to which the writ of the constitution shapes the beliefs, actions, and aspirations of the actors who inhabit the regime conjured by it, and how far the constitution is itself responsive to efforts to renegotiate its terms. The paper investigates this question in the light of the Turkish experience of piecemeal constitutional reform from the early 2000s to the present day, situating this transition within the context of a broader shift of power away from the Kemalist vanguard in favor of the AKP’s socially conservative populism.