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Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) [Paperback]

Jenny White
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

25 Nov 2012 Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics

Turkey has leapt to international prominence as an economic and political powerhouse under its elected Muslim government, and is looked on by many as a model for other Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab Spring. This book reveals how Turkish national identity and the meanings of Islam and secularism have undergone radical changes in today's Turkey, and asks whether the Turkish model should be viewed as a success story or cautionary tale.

Jenny White shows how Turkey's Muslim elites have mounted a powerful political and economic challenge to the country's secularists, developing an alternative definition of the nation based on a nostalgic revival of Turkey's Ottoman past. These Muslim nationalists have pushed aside the Republican ideal of a nation defined by purity of blood, language, and culture. They see no contradiction in pious Muslims running a secular state, and increasingly express their Muslim identity through participation in economic networks and a lifestyle of Islamic fashion and leisure. For many younger Turks, religious and national identities, like commodities, have become objects of choice and forms of personal expression.

This provocative book traces how Muslim nationalists blur the line between the secular and the Islamic, supporting globalization and political liberalism, yet remaining mired in authoritarianism, intolerance, and cultural norms hostile to minorities and women.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (25 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691155186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691155180
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


One of's Best International Relations Books in the Best Books on the Middle East category for 2012

"[P]iercing and original analysis . . ."--

"[A]deeply insightful book. . . . [T]he writing is . . . clear and straightforward, and the book is chock-full of rich tidbits from Turkish society. . . . Filled with insight, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks is sure to become a leading text for those looking to read the Turkish tea leaves . . ."--David Lepeska, National

"[T]his is a good book worth reading by those concerned with Turkey and broader issues of democratic transitions in the Muslim world."--
Hurriyet Daily News

"Even for those already familiar with contemporary Turkey, this sometimes disturbing book will be an eye opener"--.John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs

"This anthropological work is grounded in a deep knowledge of Turkey, nourished by White's successive long stays and periods of fieldwork in the country; yet it is also a judicious compilation of key secondary sources."--Clmence Scalbert-Yucel, Times Higher Education

"Jenny White has provided readers with insightful and nuanced access to the complexities of Turkish society and a first look at a newly emerging class of individualist Muslim nationalists."--Zeynep Kosereisoglu, Muftah

"In this multilayered, theoretically sophisticated, and analytically rich examination of the contradictions and convergences found in contemporary expressions of 'Turkishness,' especially with respect to Muslim and secular forms of nationalisms, White offers an interpretation that reinforces Barth's emphasis on pluralism, choice, and negotiation, while also demonstrating greater understanding and synthesis of the constraints of gender, class, ethnicity, and religion."--

"It's a reviewer's job both to critique the book at hand and to detail and summarize its most salient points. It's a tribute to Boston University anthropologist Jenny White's excellent Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks that it makes the latter extremely difficult to do, simply by doing justice to the enormous complexity of Turkish society."--William Armstrong, Hurriyet Daily News

"I would definitely recommend it to both Western scholars and Turks themselves. White's book is an extensive analysis of the Turkish nationality issue. In my opinion it is original that White also researched the female image of 'belonging to the Turkish nation', this is a view one seldom encounters. Inter alia therefore Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks is a valuable addition to other books already written on the subject of Turkish nationality."--Anouk Willemsen, International Review of Turkish Studies

From the Inside Flap

"Few questions are more urgent, especially since the eruption of the Arab Spring, than whether there is a 'Turkish model' for combining Islam with democracy. White's book, the culmination of many years of research, provides a magisterial guide to the complex reality behind this question. The book is must reading for scholars, members of the policy community, and educated citizens concerned with the interplay of religion and politics in the contemporary world."--Peter L. Berger, Boston University

"White's book is a bold and flawless analysis of the new Turkey's collective unconscious. This exceptional work must be read not only by Western observers but also by the Turks themselves."--Moris Farhi, author of Young Turk

"Innovative and original, this is a very important and insightful analysis of contemporary Turkish discourses on what it means to be Turkish and a member of the Turkish nation. White makes the significant argument that the divide in Turkey is not between secularism and religion, but rather is a struggle over what is sacred to the nation and where the boundaries of national identity should be drawn."--Marc Baer, author of The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks

"Turkey is a country of contradictions, and very few authors have managed to paint so complex a picture of it as White. It is a nation where the secular elite has dogmatically made war on all things Islamic, yet this same elite embraces a Turkish nationalism rooted in the Islamic religion. This is a well-written, engaging, and smart book about contemporary Turkey, one that will be widely read and discussed."--Henri J. Barkey, Lehigh University

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a college textbook 14 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
While the book provides, among other things, a thoughtful analysis of why the governing AKP party in Turkey today has achieved such high levels of voter support, it is written in a very dense, academic style. At times too abstract, like a political science textbook in college. In short the book was informative but not enjoyable reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating content, abysmal writing 29 Dec 2012
By Jackson Dallas - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The first half of this book gave me a better understanding of Turkish politics and culture than I gained from two years of living in Turkey. The author's observations are brilliantly perceptive. The writing style, however, is so opaque that I was unable to motivate myself to read the second half. The sentence structure is convoluted, and every page has phrases so abstract that I had to study and deconstruct them to figure out their meaning...or could not figure out the meaning at all. The sentence opening that finally stopped me in my tracks was, "In place of individualizing as a response to the spread of new forms of communication and self-production through commodities,..." I do not fault the author; it is the publisher's responsibility to provide an editor.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provicdes background for understanding current events in Turkey 28 Jun 2013
By Paul Durrenberger - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an insightful analysis of the current political/cultural situation in Turkey that people in Europe and the U.S. know only via highly selective press treatment if at all. When the Prime Minister wanted to build in the last green space in Istanbul, protesters halted construction. Police cleared away the protesters. The protesters gathered again. Police methods became progressively more brutal as the demonstrations grew and then started in other towns and cities throughout Turkey. What was behind it? The press were baffled or offered little in the way of convincing explanations. White, in this sequel to her two previous books on Turkey, offers an insightful understanding, written before the demonstrations started. The Third Republic (since 1923), opened Turkey to the world and to the market and removed government controls of a number of enterprises. In the wake of this, there grew a group of successful businessmen who could finance new patterns of consumption, no less market based, based on Islamic notions. At the same time, identity itself became a commodity, something one could choose from a number of models offered--the Kemilist secularist, the conservative Islamist, some kind of Turkish Islam less influence by the Arabian world, or the pre-republic Ottoman identity. People could mix and match elements and elect an Ottoman style house with a modified Turkish dress style for women. With the new openness arose the AK party, originally Islamist but progressively modified at the insistence of the Army and Courts that stood watch over Ataturk's legacy of a democratic republic. When they won a third election, AKP began to re-define the shape of the Republic by purges of the courts and the Army. AKP won, but by only a slim majority. That meant that a good half of the voters did not support them. Half of the people in Turkey are under 30 years of age and searching for meaningful identities in the new marketplace of identity. While many have benefited from AKP policies and reforms, many have not or have suffered. A number of journalists languish in prison, and dissidents are in exile or in prison. In all of these elements, one sees the seething unrest that recently boiled over into the streets of Turkish cities. The whole world watches to see how these issues will be resolved. A new election is scheduled in about a year.
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Biased 3 Feb 2013
By Trotsky the Libertarian - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It seems that the author's mind was kidnapped by the subjects of her research. She is biased against Kemalists. I am neither a Kemalist nor a Political Islamist. However, for a book published by a prestigious university, the minimum expectation is it has to be objective. The majority of the people interviewed by the author were Islamists. The "so-called" Kemalists interviewed by her were presented like apparatchiks of "soon-to-be-abolished" ideology. I believe this author to learn how the objective research is done should have read Sukru Hanioglu's book entitled Ataturk before undertaking her project. In fact, she should have learned foundational issues associated with the transition from an empire to republic so that she could analyze what present-day Islamists want much more analytically. Kemalists with the coup in 1980 almost slaughtered the left to the non-existence and opened up (in fact supported) a very congested path to Islamism to create a new generation without single bite about left ideologies in their brain. The author unfortunately misses this milestone in the history of Political Islam in Turkey. Islamism is the creation of the very Kemalists the author and her subjects like to bash. Thus, in the deep blue see, there is not much difference between the Kemalists and their creation, so-called New Turks, mildly Islamists, Islamists and so on.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The inside story 26 Jan 2013
By Jay - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I visit Turkey occasionally and this book explained a lot for me. Today's common wisdom is that Turkey under prior governments was a great American ally but under Erdogan is drifting toward Islamism. The story is a lot more complex than that and in some ways almost the opposite. Jenny White's book is a must read for anyone who thinks he/she knows what's going on in Turkish culture and politics.
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome job! 13 Jan 2014
By Akinalp Orhan - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jenny White has done really well. Her book comprimeses almost every issue in Turkey related to nationalism. Anyone who wants to know better about Turkey should read it.
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