Bilge Yabanci

Bilge Yabanci

Guest researcher

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Works at Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies
Visiting address Kräftriket 4A
Postal address Institutionen för Asien- Mellanöstern- och Turkietstudier 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Bilge is a postdoctoral research fellow at Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS). Currently, she works on the transformation of civil society and new social movements in Turkey under authoritarian pressure with a project titled Building Authoritarianism from 'below'.

Her research interests also include populism, ruling populist parties, illiberal governance and authoritarianisation, contemporary Turkish politics and the EU-Turkey relations. She was a visiting fellow at the Centre for Southeast European Studies (CSEES) of the University of Graz in Austria and at Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Italy as a part of the Horizon 2020 Project ‘The future of EU-Turkey relations’.

Bilge received her PhD from the University of Bath in the UK. She holds an MSc in European Affairs from University of Lund and BSc in International Relations from METU, Turkey.



Peer reviewed articles

  • Yabanci, B. (co-author D. Taleski). 2018. ‘Co-opting ‘the Religion’: How Ruling Populists in Turkey and Macedonia Sacralise the Majority. Religion, State and Society, 46 (3): 283-304.

  • Yabanci, B. ‘Populism and Anti-Establishment Politics in Kosovo: A Case Study of Lëvizja Vetëvendosje’, 2016. Contemporary Southeastern Europe 3 (2): 17–43.

  • Yabanci, B. ‘Populism as the problem child of democracy: the AKP’s enduring appeal and the use of meso-level actors’, 2016. Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 16(4), 591-617.

  • Yabanci, B. ‘The future of EU-Turkey relations: between mutual distrust and interdependency’, 2016. FEUTURE Online Paper, No. 1,

  • Yabanci, B. ‘The (Il)legitimacy of EU state building: local support and contention in Kosovo’, 2016. Journal of Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 16 (3), 345-73.

  • Yabanci, Bilge. 2014. ‘Another Crossroads in the Cyprus Conflict: New Negotiations, Hope for Change and Tough Challenges Ahead – Research Turkey’. Research Turkey 3(1): 25–46.



  • Yabanci, B. Populism as the problem child of democracy: the AKP’s enduring appeal and the use of meso-level actors (forthcoming in 2018) in Turkey’s Exit from Democracy, eds. Kerem Öktem and Karabekir Akkoyunlu, Routledge: London.

  • Yabanci, B. The EU’s Democratization and State-building Agenda in Kosovo: An analysis through the fragmented local agency (2015) in An Agenda for the Western Balkans from Elite Politics to Social Sustainability, eds. Nikolaos Papakostas and Nikolaos Passamitros, ibidem-Verlag: Stuttgart, 23-52.


Review Articles

  • Yabanci, B. Contentious Politics in the 19th century Ottoman Bosnia (2015) Turkish Review. 5(4). 342-345.

  • Yabanci, B. New Agendas in Statebuilding: Hybridity, Contingency and History (2014) ed. Robert Engell and Peter Haldén, Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security. 3(2), 207-9.

  •  Yabanci, B. Europe in the World: EU Geopolitics and the Making of European Space (2012) ed. by Luiza Bialasiewicz, Journal of Contemporary European Research (JCER), 8(2), 274-6.

  • Yabanci, B. An Island in Europe: The EU and the Transformation of Cyprus (2012) ed. by James Ker-Lindsay, Hubert Faustmann and Fiona Mullen, Journal of Global Analysis, 3(1), 106-8.

Selected Opinion Pieces

  • Political violence, civic space and human rights defence in the era of populism and authoritarianism, 2018,

  • Women of ‘new’ Turkey: dystopian sacralised mothers and everyday feminists, 2018,

  • Turkey is getting more authoritarian. Here's why funding nongovernmental organizations won't help democracy, Wastington Post, 2017, Turkey is getting more authoritarian. Here's why ... - Washington Post

  • What could and should the EU do with Turkey? (co-authored with Kerem Öktem), 2016,


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Bilge Yabanci, Dane Taleski. Religion, State and Society 46 (3), 283-304

    Despite the remarkable scholarly attention to populism and populist parties, the relation between populism and religion remains understudied. Using evidence from two long-term ruling populist parties – Turkey’s Justice and Development Party and Macedonia’s Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity – this study focuses on how and why religion can be an instrument for populist politics at three levels: (i) discursive, (ii) public policy and (iii) institutionalised alliances with religious authorities. The study highlights that religion comes into play at these three levels once populists attain comfortable electoral margins but encounter mounting political and economic challenges that can potentially weaken their grip on power. Ruling populists co-opt and monopolise the majority religion in the name of ‘the people’s will’ as they increasingly undermine democratic legitimacy but they need to justify their systematic crackdown on dissent, the system of checks and balances, the rule of law and minorities. The empirical findings of the study also demonstrate the dual function of religion for populists: its catch-all potential to create cross-class and cross-ethnicity popular support, and its instrumentality to discredit dissent as ‘religiously unfit’ while constructing an antagonism of ‘the people’ versus ‘the elites’.

  • 2019. Bilge Yabanci. Journal of Civil Society

    Under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule, Turkey’s civil society has enlarged both in size and diversity of civic engagement. This development is puzzling since Turkey’s weak democratic credentials do not allow an enabling political and legal setting for civil society’s expansion. This study argues that the expansion can be explained through a particular dilemma of rulers in competitive-authoritarian (CA) regimes. The AKP is caught between the conflicting interests of appropriating and containing civil society. While the government needs to cherish civil society to sustain CA regime, it also needs to repress it, as civil society is the only arena where dissenting social forces can still carve pockets of resistance and challenge the dominant paradigms of the regime. Based on extensive fieldwork, this study discusses the patterns of containment and appropriation that have led to the steady expansion of civil society under pressure. The AKP’s dilemma has also rendered Turkey’s civil society ‘tamed’, namely politicizeddisabled and segregated. The study broadens the understanding of relations between civil society and the state in CA regimes by offering essential insights into how these regimes are sustained, entrenched and also contested through and within civil society.

Show all publications by Bilge Yabanci at Stockholm University

Last updated: October 9, 2019

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