Murat Akan, "A confiscated trajectory of secularism: revisiting the critical case of Turkey", In Politics, Religion & Ideology, 2023
One mark of the rising research field of secularism and religion is that the field itself moved from area studies towards mainstream social science. This move can be traced through the increasing significance of Turkey. Turkey’s AKP was presented as a liberal and moderate challenge to radical Kemalist secularism in Turkish Studies, then analytical pillars of research in comparative politics and political theory relied on this presentation. After AKP’s authoritarian turn, how can we reflect on its past narration as liberal and moderate? As opposed to the thesis of rupture between the early and the late AKP, this article develops the thesis of confiscation. First, I resituate Kemalist secularism vis-à-vis French secularism with comparative history. I argue that institutionally it’s a limited, not a radical, secularism. Then, I examine gradual institutional changes during the AKP with statistics, court decisions, legislation and parliamentary discussions, and demonstrate that limited Kemalist secular institutions ease the way for AKP’s will to religionize society and the state. My analysis tackles a central thesis in the literature: secular institutions can make reasonable accommodations of religion without losing their own core. I show that in Turkey, accommodations of religion turn into confiscation of secular institutions.
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