Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Geography

First Advisor

Dr. Anna J. Secor

Abstract

In the 2002 national elections in Turkey, the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) won a majority of parliamentary seats and the leadership of all government ministries. Viewed by many voters as an alternative to both Turkey’s Kemalist establishment and the country’s Islamist political movement, this self described ‘conservative democratic’ party composed of former Islamist politicians and political neophytes sought to establish a Muslim political identity that was neither Islamist nor secular. This dissertation explores the discourse used by AKP politicians as they navigated several highly charged issues involving the religion-state relationship in Turkey. By examining what geographies AKP politicians articulated in discussing issues of religion and state, how they constructed Islam and the state through these articulations, and how these constructions compare to Kemalist and Islamist versions, this research strives to understand how these politicians are negotiating a moderate religious identity within a context of fundamentalist-secularist polarization. The research also presents an example of how recent changes observed in modern state spatiality are propagating beyond the economic dynamics usually studied.

Drawing on statements made by AKP politicians in newspaper reports, legislative debates, and individual interviews, this project examines issues such as imam hatip schools, headscarves, the role of the Directorate of Pious Works, and Turkey’s geopolitical relationships to suggest answers to its research questions. The project concludes that a combination of religious and neoliberal logics is operating within the statements of the AKP politicians studied. By appealing to the individuality of religious choice, these AKP politicians differentiated their party from the deadlock of the Kemalist-Islamist polarity. Their appeal to individual choice suggests that the answer to providing the best welfare for the population is to reduce the state’s involvement in normal processes of everyday space and allow for God and the market to work their respective magics. Within their statements, the state retains a position as a source of knowledge, supporter of research, provider of information, and protector of order. However, the state loses its position as visionary leader and social engineer.

Included in

Geography Commons

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