textum Magazine


How would you introduce textum Magazine to someone who doesn’t know yet?

In order to address the starting point that brings together the team working in the establishment and preparation phase of textum Magazine, first of all, Middle East Technical University (METU in short; Ankara, Turkey), more specifically METU Political Science Student Club (SBT) should be mentioned.  When almost all of us were undergraduate students at different levels, we organized a lot of activities together. Reading groups, talks, workshops, symposiums… These events always meant more than just “academic activities” for us. Of course, it also had such a function, we were improving ourselves and each other academically; but what is essential is that we were organizing a solidarity, an “idea”. Therefore, SBT was always at the forefront for both the discussions of students’ representation and the problems related to the faculty as well as May Day. So we are, as a part of this community.

Rather than just being a “student community”, with the work we did together during the time we worked for SBT, it became for us a “school”, an “alliance” and a kind of “organization”, trying to mobilize its academic qualifications in favor of the laborers and the oppressed, seeing itself as an ally with those and believing in the unity of thought and practice.

It would not be wrong to see textum Magazine as the fruit of this intellectual togetherness.

Although it was METU and SBT, which brought us together as those who took part in the realization of textum, we can say our current composition that stretches across much more diverse backgrounds and experiences and, consists of a group of students and academicians. The textum team is predominantly students operating in the field of social sciences and fed by different schools / approaches of critical thinking.  In this respect, we would like to state that it is a team that keeps the discussion within itself constantly alive. In addition, this mosaic structure of the subjects of the textum is the characteristic that makes collective work even more productive. The main motivation for this team’s unity is prioritizing the critical thinking that puts social realities and problems on the agenda against the mainstream intellectual thinking. The raw material of the activities, that we have shared and been a part of over the years, is this critical thinking.

Hence, we can say that Textum is an intellectual exercise field trying to make a humble contribution to the motto of understanding and changing the world while taking some academic concerns into the account, but essentially affected and inherited by the practice of labor struggles. Also, it aims to contribute as much as possible to moving labor struggles one step further through working letter by letter.

What kind of problems, needs, goals, concerns, affections, motives did you have in the beginning and construction process of this project?

In fact, the answer to this question is closely related to the issue we discussed in the previous question. We think we need the critical thought and its organization as much as water, as much as air. We mentioned above a team that wants to take their earlier work one step further and pursue a search beyond these mentioned activities. Textum consists of a team that has a collective history and desire of working together as well as trying to think and produce by discussing and asking new questions. 

Knowing that such an activity will somehow continue its life and hoping it to continue growing, we wanted to establish this channel. This is a medium that we hope to be instrumental in sharing thoughts and productions with more people, circulating them more and bringing people together. You will notice that when we mention the team who took part in the establishment of textum, we are actually talking about a “generation” shared same space and time and also gathered around similar motivations. In this manner, the textum is also a “generation project” for us. In addition to our experience of working together, we started this project with our belief in emotional togetherness of our generation and its critical and intellectual energy. We wanted to establish a publishing platform that brings people together who shares similar problems and desires, and have similar perspectives in terms of thinking and producing to us. Moreover, we wanted to contribute to the circulation of intellectual products which are produced in this setting.  As a result of such a search, textum became actually the way “we have things to say”, too.

What kind of problems did you encounter until this point? And what processes did you experience and what kind of solutions did you develop to overcome them?

Obviously, approximately a year ago before we put the magazine into a concrete form, we had to hold meetings and we needed some discussions. 

However, regardless of the course of these discussions, it took almost a year for this project to materialize and finally exist, both because it required a considerable workforce and overtime to start its publication life as a magazine, and also many of us were experiencing some radical changes in our lives. In this context, some of the results of the Covid-19 epidemic in the form of remote working-staying at home and the need to understand and interpret what is happening in the world more than before due to the epidemic provides us a suitable environment for realizing textum and to put into practice what we have in mind for a while.

Since the beginning of the pandemic process, we had already communicated with each other and continued to follow approaches to the outbreak and its direct and indirect consequences both in academia of Turkey and the world. As a result, as a positive output of the pandemics process, the textum, which we planned in advance but could not implement due to certain problems, started its publication life in June 2020.

Of course, there were other problems we encountered during this period. Many articles in the scope of our first file, which we planned for release, had content that required one-on-one or collective meetings with people. In this context, we had to constantly conduct our meetings online due to the pandemic. It should be said that this situation creates some obstacles to our deeper consideration on the issues. Similarly, it should be said that all the meetings that should be held as a publish team are also held on online platforms. Although such online meetings have beneficial aspects in terms of overcoming spatial distances, it should be emphasized that these meetings are not as efficient as face-to-face discussions. So much so that we even have to do this interview over the internet.

We tried to find solutions to such obstacles and disadvantages by meeting face-to-face and exchanging ideas in groups in the conditions that allow outdoor meetings in summer months, despite not all at the same time. Thus, we can say that our second file, which could overcome the disadvantaged conditions of the first file, was created with a richer content in terms of intellectual depth. Of course, we intend to develop the studies in future files.

Finally, we have to say that we faced with some structural problems of online magazine publishing. The best known of these is some technical problems in textum’s database. To be more specific, we wake up some mornings that the texts on the site were distorted, their order lost and similar problems occurred. In addition, sometimes access to the website may be disturbed. In fact, as we mentioned above, these are the problems of online magazine publishing inherent to technological diffuculties. Fortunately, some of the backup processes we have done on time, helped us in such cases and such small but annoying problems can be overcome.

What have you found on the way until the magazine reached this point? What do you hope to find for the future?

This is a really good question. Perhaps the most important benefits of a magazine or a similar project are those have found on the way or the ones to be found in the future. From this perspective, we should say that the first (and perhaps the nicest) thing we find on the way until the textum arrives this point is new colleagues. We should say that the textum, whose foundations were laid at SBT events in METU, has made many people a part of this work since the preparation process. In this context, the Textum Assembly, which we created as soon as we started publishing, became an inspiring medium where new ideas were discussed, as well as a structure in which we feel the strength of our fellow travelers walking with us with its ever-expanding sum. We are very happy to find companions who share similar feelings, excitement and intellectual approaches with us.

On the other hand, with this work, each of us gained new interests and experiences. One way or another, a publishing experience is ours. We have to follow discussions in a wide variety of fields, read and evaluate receiving articles, and make translations and interviews. There is a diverse learning process in both content and form for us. In summary, we aim to progress towards a publishing practice that will become stronger day by day with our new colleagues and our deepening perspective. In this respect, we firmly believe that the progressive process will bring new gains in every aspect.

What kind of interactions did the magazine project  and its process create in your close circle? What kind of reactions did you get?

It would not be wrong to say that we have received positive reactions in general. Especially since the first file we published, we have received feedbacks, which encouraged and made us happy, from our academic community. In addition, we have received and published new articles from friends who are inspired by what we have done and who want to improve the textum with their work. The most important output of this process is that we have contributed to the organization of critical practice in the intellectual field. Especially with our second file, the criticism we directed to the university, as an institutional structure that we are currently in, has gained the appreciation from our many friends. They congratulated us on our courage and made us look to the future with more hope.

In what direction do you want to advance in the future? What goals do you have?

What we have produced in our short publication life so far and the feedbacks make us think that we are not doing a bad job in line with the goals we mentioned above. We want to continue to work and produce in this direction as well as more people to feel and contribute as a part of this medium. The inherent motivation for publishing and establishing a publishing platform is to circulate, read and discuss the products you produce. We see that we have reached a certain readership so far, that our work has attracted attention in different circles with increasing interest. Of course, as a very young, newly established magazine, we are at the very beginning of the way. Our hope is to ensure the continuity of this interest, to create more and to produce works that deserve this.

It is our greatest wish that those who have academic, political and social interests and concerns, and those who have words to say in this context, will contribute to this discussion platform that we are trying to establish. The doors of the textum are wide open to those who wish to contribute to critical social thought. This call is of course primarily a call for our own generation. Today, a medium where the young generation, worn and despaired by the social crises of our age, can express themselves, discuss and speak about the mentioned social crises has become more needed than ever. Therefore, creating and expanding these types of mediums is one of the main goals for textum.

When considered in terms of publishing activity, it is useful to remember the fact that current time directs us all to digital channels. The fact that printed publication is becoming an increasingly rare method to choose increases the interest in digital platforms such as textum. However, it would be wrong to think that digital publishing alone provides access to the reader. The quality of the work produced here becomes very important. Another main goal in terms of textum is to produce intellectually quality content. Therefore, when we talk about our future goals, we would like to emphasize that we want to ensure the collective continuity of our work and to increase the quality of the content produced.

What have you learned from the mistakes you have made so far? What would you recommend to those who want to do similar projects?

As we said before, this is a long journey, we are at the very beginning of this road, and we learn new things with every step we take. Maybe this is not a mistake, but we could do it without the one-year delay we mentioned. In this sense, if it is accepted as a “wish”, we say, if only we had entered into this business before. On the other hand, there are some difficulties that the work itself poses. Although we have worked together or separately in various publishing works, we learn how difficult it is to produce a compact and organized file. In this sense, we did our best not to make the mistakes, that we made in the first file, in the second one. We believe that we will gradually reduce these mistakes in future studies.

Do you have any calls for solidarity to overcome specific challenges regarding the project?

To what extent it is possible to call this “difficulty” is unknown; but one of the most important achievements for a magazine would be to create its own audience. In this sense, we always repeat our call to be more read and shared.

Any last words?

Thank you very much for your invitation. We wish you good luck in your work, too!

Interviewer: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan

Translated from Turkish original by: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan