Les Temps Changent

Somdeep Sen blogs about issues of political radicalism and other underreported stories from around the globe.

Summer Fun Hamas-Style

Over the past month, much has been said about Hamas' summer camps in the Gaza Strip. Here is my reflections based on a 'tour' of a non-military summer camp.

Originally published on Open Democracy:


The Spanish Dilemma: A Blessing in Disguise?

Originally Featured on OpenDemocracy:



People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when crisis is upon them – Jean Monnet

Reconciling with the Islamists: A Tough Road Ahead...

Richard Little in Culture and Security wrote that “…it is impossible to exaggerate the extent to which international relations has been transformed since the end of the Cold War….”  Little’s claim is all but unique in International Relations and Security Studies literature. There is a general sense of agreement that in the post-Cold War era the world realigned itself away from the bipolar power structure that existed during the Cold War, and that, “[s]tate, centrism, rationalist assumptions about agency and action, and narrowly materialist visions of structure and power have all been subjected to extensive and telling criticism.”  Moreover, there has been recognized “…the need to broaden the analytical and methodological agenda of security studies, while at the same time widening in scope to include issues of identity, human security, environmental security, and a host of other concerns….”  What the world therefore saw in the post-Cold War era was the perpetual ‘shaking of the snow globe’ that realigned our foundational assumptions about International Relations and Security Studies regarding notions of ‘power’, ‘legitimacy’ and ‘rationality’. Furthermore, the experience and trauma of 9/11, defined armed non-state actors as one of the primary perpetrators that continue to perpetually perpetrate the ‘traditional’ (pre-Cold War/Cold War) values and theoretical frameworks of International Relations.

The Palestinian Cause: Arab? Muslim? or just Palestinian?

I’m in yet another Muslim majority country; Turkey. This country provides a unique perspective on democratic consolidation, social transformation and economic development. Along with this, Turkey presents its own unique perspective on the dynamics of the world politics and its place in it. But, one issue that remains perennial in my experience in Turkey (similar to my encounters in Egypt and Bangladesh), is the question of Palestine. Just like in most places in the Muslim and Arab world, among the populace there seems to be clear support, awareness and understanding for the Palestinian cause, distinct hatred for Israel and its policies and an abhorrence for the undeterred support received my the Jewish state from the United States. With the prevalence of this clear perspective on the Palestinian issue, unfortunately, the political realities of the Muslim and Arab world seems to be quite a divergent.

Political Radicalism and Modernization

***Over the past few weeks we at the German-Turkish Master's Program at Middle East Technical University (Ankara) have been extensively discussing the concept of modernization. With my interest in radicalism, I decided to write this paper for one of my classes (briefly) exploring the relationship between political radicalism and the process of modernization. Because the focus of the program is Germany and Turkey, I had to use them as case studies.

Conflict, Memory and Identity

It was the summer of 2006. I was back home in India conducting a research on violence against women in Bengali society (thanks to a generous research grant from St. Lawrence University). Being a Bengali, born into a Hindu family in India, often the limits of Bengali society is restricted to my country of origin. But once I was back home, I realized that my research would be an incomplete one, if I failed to incorporate the ‘Bengali society’ across the border, namely in Bangladesh.

Warm and Cuddly in Turkey #1: Academic Freedom

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) understands ‘Academic Freedom' as being "...the essential characteristic of an institution of higher education. It encompasses the right of faculty to full freedom in research and in the publication of results, freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, and the right of faculty to be free from institutional censorship or discipline when they speak or write as citizens." The question of academic freedom in Turkey is often a contentious issue. Protests on November 6th and 7th in Ankara by University students against the country's High Education Board (YÖK) on its 28th anniversary clearly displayed a significant level of discontent against an often-heavy handed involvement of the Turkish government in matters of higher education.

The Question of Identity

A week or so back I read a fascinating essay by Andrew Marshall in the Time Magazine issue for the week of November 9th, 2009 (Cover: “Rare Tuna”). Titled “Identity Crisis: What does it mean to be authentically Swiss?”, it delves into the question of identity in a country that is known for its neutrality and self-proclaimed sense of “exceptionalism”  Switzerland’s affinity for purity is exemplified in the slogan of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry: “Fake watches are for fake people. Be authentic. Buy real.” But, the author identifies a clear discrepancy.

Hungary and its Far-right: A personal experience

  The options for graduating high school students from India are plenty. Besides the opportunities within India, thousands, if not millions, of us have embarked on academic careers in countries like the United States, Canada, UK, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Forbes Magazine estimated that in 2006 there were 123,000 Indian students studying abroad, which included 76,000 in the United States alone. As of this year there are approximately 97,000 Indian students in Australia. I remember embarking on my first trip abroad as a student. The world beyond seemed utterly enthralling, replete with opportunities and possibilities. The West seemed like a portal to a life that we had dreamed of. But this ideal vision of the world outside India seldom featured racism as an integral aspect of it.