The Nostalgia of the Empire: Neo-Ottomanism, Euro-skepticism and Desecularized Nationalism in Contemporary Turkey

    • EUPE Florence Dec2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Martin Noel, Ecole des Hautes etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris / Institut Catholique de Paris


    Working on populism does not come without contradiction. If many rightly point out that it is more of an “empty signifier” than an analytical concept, it has mainly been described as a rhetorical style based on the dichotomic construction of an “us” and a “they”. What does this mean when we are not actually talking about persons or movements but regimes? Acknowledging the relative idiosyncratic nature of every populist utterance, I would like to argue that right wing populism, more narrowly defined as “ethno-cultural populism” can and should be understood as a resurging mode of governance. The case of Turkey and its ruling party, the AKP, is in this perspective enlightening. All too often reduced to a “shift from pluralism to Islamic populism” , the recent events in the country testify less of a shift, than of the reframing of a long tradition of negation and containment of social antagonisms. From the founding of the Republic onwards the very definition of the nation on ethno-cultural and religious bases, has been used to suppress dissent, as much as the use of a emergency discourse targeting Europe or “the West”. I would therefore argue in this paper, that the rise of a strong euro-skeptical, nationalist-islamic discourse among the new elite is therefore but the adaptation of old governmentality devices in the wake of rising socio-economic inequalities and pauperization and a resurging war with the Kurdish minority.