Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone, du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010

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Faces of Conservatism in Turkey (103) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Department of Political Science and Public Adm., Middle East Technical Univeristy, Ankara (Turkey)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Asl' Ç'rakman

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel takes conservatism as a life style, political trend, world view and an aspect of national identity. In this regard, papers focus on different and diverse experiences and interpretations of conservatism in contemporary Turkey. Theoretical reflections on conservatism as such are our starting point with certain remarks on the peculiarity of Turkish experience as a case of diversion from the European understanding in thought and practice. Turkish conservatism seems to be fed from a tension between the demands of modernization and anxiety concerning modern forms of existence. Construction of Turkish national identity in the early republican years is explored with reference to the above mentioned tension attested within the debates concerning nation building process. Another paper observes a conservative impasse in Turkish politics: the reflection of Ottoman political and cultural heritage in the ideology of the ruling AKP party confronts the defensive, reactionary and thus conservative republicanism of the main opposition party CHP. Finally, one paper discusses conservatism as a life style among urban veiled women. It particularly focuses on the increase in religiosity, authoritarianism and parochialism in daily life. Furthermore this paper explores the gender dimension of conservatism with regards to the above mentioned tension.

Chair: Onur Yildirim (Department of Economics - Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey)

Paper presenter: Cem Deveci (Department of Political Science and Public Admistration- Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey), “Hybrid conservatism in Turkey and its peculiarity with respect to western conservatism”
This study examines conservative disposition in Turkish politics and social life that has been rising in last decades in terms of its unique synthesis of realizing the institutional requirements of modernization with conservatism in life world. In comparison to its western counterpart such disposition has certain peculiarities: 1. Instead of a general distrust on abstract reason, it welcomes modern scientific and technological outlook in natural sciences, economy, law and administration with the only condition that the validity claims of such discourses will not dominate the realm of daily practices of the life world which should be kept with its own contingency and historicity; 2. Similarly, free market economy, consumerism and globalization (that have been severely critized by western conservatism) are welcomed with the same condition of not destroying the given Muslim way of life; 3. With respect to the centrality attached to tradition in conservatism as such, hybrid version is disruptive in the sense that rather than underlining the ages-old continuity of tradition, the unique synthesis itself is presented as a new tradition counter posed to the republican ideals of wholesome modernization. Remarkably, this allows Turkish conservatives to locate themselves on ‘a progressive position’ in Turkish political discourse; 4. Whereas conservatism as such has always been critical of both positive and negative conceptions of liberty, hybrid conservatism attacks positive liberty but celebrates negative liberty on a Berlinian liberal ground. Hence veiling of women, religiosity, family and education should be regarded within the scope of negative liberty.

Paper presenter: Nesim Seker (Department of History - Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey), “Conservative Aspects of the Nation-Building in Turkey”
In the historiography of contemporary Turkey, the early Republican era (1923-1938), when the attempts at nation-building were on the agenda, is usually treated as the ‘most progressive’ one. Witnessed a series of radical reforms aiming the modernization of the state and society, this period is claimed to transform a traditional/backward state and society into one ‘catching up with the contemporary civilization’. An overview of the reforms held in this period may easily allow one to conclude that it was exempt from any kind of conservatism, particularly on the part of reformers, as all done was done to foster change. A closer scrutiny of the attempts aiming at the construction of national identity and of the political system itself may reveal conservative aspects of the ‘revolutionary change’ in the early Turkish Republic. This essay will trace such aspects in the ‘revolutionary ideology’ of the party in power; namely, Republican People’s Party, the place of state and society in its modernization vision as well as in the national identity it attempted to construct. By doing so, it aims to highlight some origins of conservative thought and practices in contemporary Turkey.

Paper presenter: Kür'ad Ertu'rul (Department of Political Science and Public Administration - Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey), “Conservative impasse in Turkish politics”
This study attempts to assess the conservative impasse in Turkish politics through an analysis of the ideological discourses of the ruling AKP and main opposition CHP. The AKP identifies itself with Ottoman politico-cultural heritage as is expressed in the works of Ahmet Davuto’lu, now foreign minister. The foreign policy vision of the party, also, reinforces the ideological project of the AKP in Turkish politics. In this context, the AKP appears to be acting as if it is the representative of the ‘Islamic civilization’ in the Western world. This is a representation in the Western world as it can be attested in the politico-cultural strategy of the AKP for EU membership as well as in a UN project like ‘Alliance of Civilizations.’ This self-representation of the AKP and the following policy vision promotes ‘Islamization’ of Turkish society and authoritarianism in Turkish politics. In that, ‘the authority to be restored in social life’ in the form of the reinforcement of religious values and the assumed ‘Islamic cultural identity’ as the form of the Turkish social-historical domain undermines the very basis of the rhetoric of human rights and democracy in the AKP ideology. The main opposition party CHP confronts the politics of the AKP through a different conservatism; a defensive, reactionary and hence conservative republicanism.

Paper presenter: Asl' Ç'rakman (Department of Political Science and Public Administration - Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey), “Veiling of urban women in Turkey and the Conservative Tide”
This study is based on a research conducted among urban veiled women who are employed as sales representatives in retail sector. According to a 2007 survey 70% of women in Turkey cover their heads in public areas whereas 64% of women were covered in 2003. The main concern of this paper is to see to weather veiling is an indicator of rising conservatism. Turkey has been governed by majority government of Justice and Development Party since 2002 which is expected to govern at least until 2011. This is a conservative (moderate islamist) political party, led by leaders from political Islamic backgrounds. Recently it has been claimed that in the last couple of decades Turkish society has began to experience increased religiosity, authoritarianism, spreading lack of tolerance, increasing xenophobia and anomie. This is called the ''''rising tide of conservatism''''. It challenges the norms of toleration and cultural diversity. In what sense veiling pertains to the above mentioned conservative tide’ Is veiling about endorsing the existing patriarchal relations or is it about renegotiation of gender identities’? What does veiling mean to urban veiled women? Is it taken as a protest against secularism, a way of life, a personal choice or a matter of conformity?