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H20-MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions

Authoritarianism and Messianic Conceptions of Politics in Turkey 1850-2015

Awarded: NOK 1.9 mill.


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Project Period:

2019 - 2021


Authoritarianism and Messianic Conceptions of Politics in Turkey 1850-2015

The literature approaches the authoritarian turn in Turkish politics either as an example of political Islam gone wrong or as part of the competitive authoritarianism that sweep across the globe. But even a cursory glance reveals the persistence and recurrence of authoritarian themes in Turkish political discourse regardless of religious leaning. How, then, can we talk about cultural underpinnings of authoritarian rule in Turkey without succumbing to cultural essentialism or presenting it as a sui generis case? Accordingly, this project aims to explore the historical transformation of an authoritarian and messianic concept of leadership in Turkish context from the mid-nineteenth century to present. Parallel to this the project will look at how such concepts are tied to the various temporalities, that is, alternative ways the past, the present and the future are represented and imagined politically. Employing a conceptual historical approach with an innovative research design, this project will be a cultural archeology of the authoritarian turn in Turkish politics and follow the Islamic and secular political theologies both of which imagine the leader as a savior figure in a state of crisis and exception. The project uses the word Messianism to define this authoritarian concept of leadership, because besides the obvious savior image of the ruler and attending concepts, the project will focus on religious and secular temporalities that are implied by, or built into, such concepts. These temporalities include national liberation, Muslim revival and material development all of which propose different narratives of Ottoman decline and fall, posit a set of enemies and threats and imagine a future where these threats are thwarted and community reaches a state of peace and security. Within such temporalities the leader emerges as a supreme agency which is able to interfere in the history and change its course.

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H20-MSCA-Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions

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