Schooling and Islamization in Turkey: A Cultural Theory of Mobilization

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The Islamist movement in Turkey was heavily repressed by a military coup in 1997, but within five years conquered state power and continue to rule 17 years later. While Islamists developed a strong political program, the resilience and success of the movement cannot be explained by focusing on conventional politics (elections, party politics, public demonstrations) alone. Their mundane work in the cultural realm (changing how people think and act) has had an indirect, yet formative, impact on politics. This book aims to develop a theory of contention that accords culture a causal role in explaining how movements create social change. To do so, it moves from a narrow conception of power as coercive force or reluctant submission to a broader conception of power that includes the generation of categories, which impose particular understandings of reality, demarcate normalcy, and marginalize alternatives. The theory demonstrates that politics and culture do not constitute distinct fields but are deeply intertwined as parts of a broader struggle for domination. What is at stake is to conquer the power to impose definitions of the world that shape everyday life as much as to organize sanctions in the world that ensure willful obedience. More generally, it shows that control over subjectivities cannot be theorized distinctly from control over bureaucratic, juridical, or punitive institutions. The book uses these insights to explicate the case of Turkey’s Islamist mobilization and their impacts in a semi-authoritarian context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTheorizing Social Change: Policies, Institutions, Culture Conference
StateUnpublished - Oct 10 2019


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