Monday, February 25, 2013

Jenny White's "Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks"

Jenny White is associate professor of anthropology at Boston University. She is the author of Islamist Mobilization in Turkey and Money Makes Us Relatives: Women's Labor in Urban Turkey.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her latest book, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, and reported the following:
This is a page that surprised me and upended some assumptions that I'm sure I shared with others observing Turkish society because it shows the surprising political and social conservatism of Turkey's young people. I give some statistics and the results of national polls that show that in 2002 a large majority of young people supported joining the EU, but that this declined over the next few years. However, even in 2002 young people (high school seniors) that supported joining the EU feared it at the same time. What did they fear? Surprisingly, they were afraid that Turkish society would become morally degenerate, that they'd lose Turkish customs and values, most of all that they'd lose their "honor" before the community, a term that seems so archaic in the West, but is bred deep even in the youngest and most urban Turks. They were particularly concerned that the authority of the father in the family would be undermined and that relations between men and women would degenerate, becoming too familiar. And they feared that joining the EU would open the door to foreign interference. This is Turkey's youth -- like their parents, deeply committed to traditional, conservative family values.

Another surprise was that most upper class secularists were against EU membership. This doesn't bear any resemblance to the Turkey represented in the western media -- the fashion-forward artsy Istanbul crowd in clubs, cafes, trendy restaurants and art galleries. Well, that's just the thinnest slice of a thin slice of the Turkish population. It seems there are millions of young people who share their elders' views about morality and properly distant relations between men and women, and suspicion of the West. Actually, they may well be the same young people photographed in the Beyoglu clubs -- after all, they're not yet married and not yet expected to uphold communal norms. They're sowing their oats, and when the time comes to reap, they'll be out there in their inherited moral harness.
Learn more about the book and author at the Princeton University Press website and Jenny White's website.

--Marshal Zeringue