As I sit here at the airport gate on my way back to England after nearly six years in Istanbul, the feelings are more numb-like than I would have imagined. It is partly to do with the fact that over the last two weeks or so I have been making all sorts of arrangements to pack my things, cargo them and get my flat cleared out, by all means necessary, including selling items or giving away various goodies collected over years of life in Istanbul and my travels worldwide. It has been a blast. While I was resident in Istanbul, I explored 12 cities in Turkey, all of them quite special in their own way. I lived and studied in Manhattan, New York City, for nearly four months. I lived for a month each in Jakarta, Islamabad, Jerusalem and Leiden. I visited all over Western Europe and, for the first time, the Maghreb.
Now I move to live and work another location. It is back to a dear friend, the city of London. I was an undergraduate in the city back in the late 1980s when the world was undergoing a series of changes: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Collapse of the Soviet Empire – the outset of global neoliberal economics – and the end of the socialist thinking in mainstream politics in the west for good. The world is more globalised than ever but more unequal than ever, too, unsurprisingly. Media used to be world class in Britain and America – now much of it lingers in the gutter of salaciousness, voyeurism, and the daily hate. I frequently worry about what lies ahead – and all the risks and challenges that face the generations to come.
In my own field of radicalisation/deradicalisation studies, much has changed since I left Britain, but much has remained the same too. There was a time after the events of 7/7 when the British government was keen to learn about the cause and solutions of radicalism. However, after the world economic downturn that began in 2008, existing divisions have widened further, creating fear and intolerance among all in society. It has also led to the dominance of individualist-nationalist identity politics, which has further broken down social cohesion at the community level. On the topic of extremism, while the reality is a nuanced, complex picture of causes and solutions, too many in the world of analysis and solutions building suffer from flawed ideological motivations.
Going forward I will continue to study, write and comment on these topics. All the time, keeping true to social science diktats. I have three project proposals under way. Fingers crossed the funding will start rolling in sooner rather later. I will then let the research do the talking.