Scholars in Context: Ali Rıza Güngen
Jadaliyya's Scholars in Context series consists of Q&As in which scholars of the Middle East describe their research and the paths they took to arrive at it. The series provides a platform for these scholars to highlight the significance of their work, identify the audiences they seek to reach, and outline their future research trajectories, giving readers an in-depth look at the latest research in a given field.
Jadaliyya (J): What is the main focus of your current research, and how does it connect to or depart from your previous work?
Ali Rıza Güngen (ARG): My current research centers on the uses of public banks in the global South amid the Covid-19 pandemic and post-pandemic recovery. It is a continuation of my previous research on public bank actions in Turkey and how they have been practical tools of managing financial volatilities and reinvigorating cross-sectional alliances in the last decade.
My postdoctoral study at Queen’s University at Kingston, Canada, centered on the ramifications of financial inclusion and the changing conceptions of development through financial deepening. Culminating in my book published recently, Politics of Debt: Financial Inclusion in Turkey (2021), this research was an extension of my work on financialization in the global South. Now, I am trying to compare the public bank actions in recent years in various economic geographies. Since public banks can be motors of credit expansion as seen in the pandemic and play prominent roles in financial deepening, I tend to think of my recent focus as a continuation of my previous work. Still, comparing various country cases and enlarging the scope will bring in new insights.
J: What particular topics, issues, and literature does it address?
ARG: Documenting the details of public bank operations amid the pandemic in the global South will contribute to the scholarly discussions on variegated uses of public financial capacity. My research will inform debates on patient capital and the state's role in economic recovery. It also addresses literature on topics such as the financialization of the state and growth regimes. In that vein, my analysis of public financial institutions is also closely related to the debates on green transition and equitable, sustainable development.
The main issue in this field is explaining the multi-faceted uses of public banks and finding ways to open the conceptual space to promote alternative and equity-based uses of public financial capacity. The question of how to make public banks function in the public interest is intimately related to how we approach to finance, how we can democratize the financial sphere, and how economic actors can deliver sustainable recovery in the post-pandemic period.
J: What brought you to this work? What was the source of inspiration?
ARG: My dissertation focused on the dynamics of financial transformation and state restructuring in Turkey and the sovereign debt management practices. Approaching the end of my PhD, I had the opportunity to work as an assistant for Dr Thomas Marois on his research titled “Public banking for public infrastructure and social development.” Our article, “Credibility and class in the evolution of public banks: the case of Turkey,” provided a historical perspective on the evolution of public banks in Turkey. I also worked as part of a research team in the EU-based FESSUD ('Financialisation, economy, society, and sustainable development) research project. The Political Economy of Financial Transformation in Turkey (Routledge, 2019), of which I was a co-editor, was the primary outcome of the FESSUD project. Throughout the research and editing, I saw how public banks continued to play a Janus-faced role in Turkey. They not only helped households and small and medium scale enterprises in their debt management but also mitigated the risks for Turkish capital groups via securitization and credit campaigns at the same time.
What happened in Turkey can also be observed in other global South countries. I want to explore how the uses of public banks have been similar to and different from each other across the global South in recent years. I aim to explain how these institutional settings and trajectories conditioned the public bank actions amid the pandemic and how they interacted with the developmental strategies.
J: What audiences would you like to reach, and what kind of impact would you like your research and writing to have?
ARG: There is a growing interest in the uses of public development banks in recent years. However, further discussions are needed to address how policymakers in developing countries can leverage additional financing and investment amid turbulent times.
I want my projects to reach researchers working in the political economy of development and comparative politics, as well as practitioners within the international development community. I want my research to positively contribute to a sea change in the long term and extend the dialogue on the potential uses of public financial capacity.
J: What other projects are you working on now?
ARG: I am working on a book manuscript focusing on development trajectories and dependent financialization processes in the twenty-first century. I will compare Turkey and Brazil in this project, and I believe my research on public bank actions amid the pandemic and recovery will contribute to the book, which will also cover topics such as financial inclusion and financial regulation in the South. In that sense, I plan to give a concise comparison of Turkey and Brazil, while I also share the outcomes of my research and projects over the last decade.
I am also working on two articles. The first one concentrates on the green lending policies of new multilateral banks. I analyzed the use of financial intermediaries in Turkey, Egypt, and Brazil by these banks and how their environmental and social guidelines have been open to reinterpretation, boosting green lending while also consolidating extractivist and environmentally hazardous accumulation strategies at the same time. My other article analyzes the water sector funding in Turkey and the relations between Ilbank and water operators.