From secularization to religious resurgence: an endogenous account

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What accounts for the resurgence of religion in Muslim countries that pursue strict secularization policies? Theories of religious resurgence have emphasized secular differentiation, religious growth, and pietist agency as animating sources behind politically engaged religions. Extending this work, I advance a typology of strategies oppositional actors employ to produce and sustain religious politics. I ground my approach in the study of Islamic resurgence in Turkey during the twentieth century. Drawing on published primary sources, secondary historiography, and multi-sited fieldwork, the analysis shows that Turkish Islamists spearheaded successful resurgence not only by capitalizing on exogenous “opportunities” that punctuated the “repressive” pathway but, more importantly, by pursuing endogenous institutional change. Even though secularizing agents restricted the religious field’s autonomy, dissidents avoided open confrontation with the state. Instead, they positioned themselves within official institutions (embedding, layering), changed their logic (conversion), and supplemented these institutions with alternative ones (substitution). As a result, religious actors turned Islam into an ideological counterattack on the regime’s secular institutions. These insights can be extended to religious mobilizations throughout the Muslim world as well as to non-religious social struggles beyond it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTheory and Society
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Historical institutionalism
  • Islamic activism
  • Middle East
  • Religious resurgence
  • Strategy
  • Turkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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