Torn in translation: An ethnographic study of regulatory decision-making in Turkey


Ebru Kayaalp, Faculty of Communication, Istanbul Sehir University, Altunizade Mahallesi, Kusbakisi Cad. No:27, 34662 Uskudar, Istanbul, Turkey. Email:


There is much literature on the diffusion and translation of regulatory agencies from the perspective of formal political models. Ethnographic research of regulation process is, however, much less common. This is even more evident with regards to the study of regulatory agencies established outside the “West.” This article analyzes the translation process of the Turkish tobacco regulatory agency, which was established in 2002, under commitments made to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Based on an ethnographic analysis of two controversial cases, the study shows that tobacco regulation was being shaped and pursued in an environment of ambivalence and uncertainty. The study concludes that the decision-making process of the agency is context-specific and constructed within the perpetual struggles and interactions among the actors involved in this process.