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Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics (Studies in Modernity and National Identity) Paperback – 25 Jan 2002

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Jenny White's book is a timely contribution to our understanding of the recent success of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey's parliamentary elections. The book provides fresh insights into the resilience of Islamic activism in Turkey, despite the government's continuous efforts to suppress it and to ban the political parties inspired by this movement ... [White] grounds her analysis in rich ethnography that brings to life her informants and their daily struggles. Middle East Journal The most important contribution of White's study is found in its rich exploration of the daily lives, beliefs and attitudes, and aspirations of the citizens of the Umraniye district of Istanbul. White takes great care in carrying out this meticulous research and presents the reader a wonderful insight into these people's environment..An excellent analysis in cultural anthropolgy and sociology. International Journal of Turkish Studies Anthropologist White has presented a gripping study of Islamization in contemporary Turkey... With it's engaging style and fascinating people, conversation, and events, White's book will appeal to students and the educated public, as well as to those specifically interested in Turkey, Islam, politics, gender, and civil society. Religious Studies Review Islamist Mobilization in Turkey offers a rich ethnographic study of the grassroots Islamist mobilization in urban Turkey. H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences

About the Author

Jenny B. White is associate professor of anthropology at Boston University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Hard to Read 27 July 2013
By Byron Fitzgerald - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am very interested in understanding the current political movement in Turkey where there is an apparent resurgence in the Islamist parties and a shift from secular to Islamic law. It is difficult for me to understand why the females in Turkish society are interested in moving from secular to Sharia law and I was hoping that this book would provide me with the perspective I wanted. For a woman in any country to voluntarily move into a society living under Sharia law, there has to be some personal gain perceived and I want to understand what that gain is.

Unfortunately, I received the impression that the author was more interested in impressing me with her knowledge of big words and I found her writing style too pedantic where she never used a common word when an obscure, scholarly one was available. I am a relatively well educated individual with what I consider and above average vocabulary but I was only able to labor through portions of two chapters before I gave up. It is too bad the author adopted such a difficult to read writing style, as the topic of the book held great interest.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A needed look into an important country and movement 14 April 2010
By Matthew Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an important book for anyone interested in Turkey or the Islamist movement in general. Turkey is one of the most important nations in the world today as it stands with one foot in Europe and the other in the Middle East, and it also stands as a potential bellwether state for whether or not the Islamist movement can integrate successfully into a representative political system. Jenny White's research goes a long way in providing readers with a glimpse into how this country, as well as the various movements within it, operates.

This book discusses the political movements inside of Turkey using "vernacular politics" as a term to denote how these movements do not fit into what would be considered normal categories when speaking of politics or civil society. The term is used to emphasize that this Islamist movement crosses normal lines. Groups like the Welfare party and its successor the Virtue party are not strictly political parties, but instead they are a hybridization of politics, civic organizations, foundations and community associations and groups. This is why the author suggests the need for the new term to denote this brand of politics.

What the author does well is to show just how amorphous this Islamist movement is. It is not a top down political party like we see in the West. The organization springs from the grassroots community and then finds its expression in the leadership. This amorphous structure is its strength as well as a potential weakness. Its strength lies in its ability to endure. Since the movement is not simply political, but instead has its roots in the community as well, this makes the movement impossible to stamp out, which is why the movement has been able to survive the government's banning of the political parties. At the same time this type of organization has strength as long as it is able to be all things to all of its constituencies at the same time. This is easy to do through civic organizations that root themselves in individual communities and tend to those needs, but this gets much more difficult politically when that group gets into power. At that point each individual community will look to see that the political leadership is listening to its own voice.

Here in lies one problem with this book; its age is a hinderance. While this book shows the beginnings of this movement, ten years have passed which has seen enormous change in Turkey. The hope is for a new edition that considers the changes that have taken place, and incorporates those changes into a new chapters that shows how this edition was the wellspring for what is happening now.

This book is not simply about the Islamist movement though. The author does an excellent job discussing the secularist parties as well. What is interesting is seeing the author juxtapose the two vastly different political groups, and it is this juxtaposition which gives such great insights into why the Islamist groups do such a great job organizing compared to the secular parties. What becomes obvious is the top down approach by those parties who have support as moderate political groups does not cut it in poorer working class areas such as Umraniye. The Islamist groups are organic whereas the secular groups seem foriegn.

This book is very important for anyone trying to understand the Islamist movement. Of course one needs to be cautious when trying to generalize a local movement, but this book shows the great appeal that an organic Islamist movement can have, and how easily it can move through neighborhoods and through people's everyday lives. The question is will these movements become an integral and important part of the political systems in countries like Turkey, or will they attempt to dominate and subjugate the democratic system. These movements actually have an enormous potential to actually stabalize democratic institutions in countries like Turkey. This book will further your understanding of these movements as well as this important country. I highly recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Breakthrough 17 Feb. 2016
By Barry - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Content: This should be on the shelf of everyone involved in political activism. Also, anyone interested in the role of religion in politics in general, and the politics of the Islamic world specifically.

Methodology: White's is very explicit about her methods: she tells us exactly what she did and how she did it. Anyone doing ethnography will find this book very helpful whether or not they care about Turkey, religion, of politics.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 27 April 2016
By gld_9 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best ethnographic studies of Muslim politics.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 18 Sept. 2015
By S. Mehl - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
She is a very thorough author
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