Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey

A Hermeneutic Reconsideration

Andrew Davison

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In this new interpretation of the modernization and secularization of Turkey, Andrew Davison demonstrates the usefulness of hermeneutics in political analysis. A hermeneutic approach, he argues, illuminates the complex relations between religion and politics in post-Ottoman Turkey and, more broadly, between politics and matters of culture, tradition, national identity, and conscience in the modern world.

Led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a modernist Turkish elite in the 1920s wrested political power from an empire in which Islam had exercised great political, social, and cultural power. Atatürk instituted policies designed to end Islamic power by secularizing politics and the state. Through the lens of hermeneutics, this book examines the ideas and policies of the secularizers and those who contested the process. Davison reinterprets the founding principles and practices of a modern, secular Turkey and closely reexamines the crucial ideas of the Turkish nationalist thinker Ziya Gökalp, who laid the conceptual groundwork for Turkey’s Westernization experience. The application of hermeneutics, the author finds, remedies the methodological shortcomings of Western political analysts and provides a better understanding of the processes of secularization in Turkey as well as elsewhere in the modern world.

Andrew Davison is assistant professor in the political science department at Vassar College. He is also visiting assistant professor of political science and international relations in the summer program of Bogaziçi University in Istanbul.

"This book is both an excellent explication of what hermeneutic interpretation means in the context of the social sciences and a fascinating demonstration of its uses."—Clifford Geertz

“An important book and a welcome addition to the literature on the subject.”—Sabri Sayari, Middle East Journal

“Davison cogently reexamines the relation between religion and the state in the Turkish Republic. . . . Those interested in a tightly reasoned reappraisal of the modernizing reforms of Kemal Ataturk’s regime in the 1920s and ’30s will find this a rewarding and informative work.”—Choice

“This is a valuable discussion of how the modern era constructed prejudices about non-modern others. The survey of works that deconstruct Modernism is a helpful guide to the basic concepts and history of Modernism.”—Dane Kusic, MESA (Middle East Studies Association) Bulletin

ISBN: 9780300069365
Publication Date: August 11, 1998
280 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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