So far the prospect of Turkey.s accession to the EU has been studied with exclusive reference to Turkey.s progress in meeting the Copenhagen criteria for membership. However, as the recent electoral success of anti.Turkish European political parties and politicians suggests, the issue now is less institutional than cultural. By problematizing European cultural minimalism as the main informant of anti.Turkish opposition, this essay turns the issue of Turkish membership upside down. While in Turkey religiosity does not appear to be a decisive factor in shaping perceptions vis.à.vis Europe, as seen in the massive electoral support given to the Islamist but pro.EU Justice and Development Party (AKP), there is a growing culturally rooted opposition against the idea of Turkish membership in Europe. Why is it that in Europe, which is generally considered behaviorally and attitudinally more secular than Turkey, one observes this opposition against the inclusion of its religious and cultural other? This essay locates the answer to this question in the context of a European common identity.building process in which Turkey has historically played the most decisive role. While rejecting the argument that Turkish.EU relations amount to a clash of civilizations, the essay argues that the process of membership is complicated by a clash of two conflicting definitions of what Europe is and should be. The essay claims that the Turkish side.s double demands of inclusion into Europe and recognition of its distinct cultural identity directly conflict with the minimalist discourse that Europe is the center of civilization into which Turkey is expected to assimilate. While sharing this view during its history of modernization, Turkey, particularly under the AKP government, has grown more self.confident regarding its civilizational authenticty, while remaining supportive of the membership idea. Most Turks now perceive Europe as a geographical zone of opportunity where multiple claims for civilizational authenticity are equally recognized. The essay concludes that resolving the Turkish question, and by extension the question of Europe.s Muslim minority, will be possible only through a new, multicivilizational vision of Europe that confronts the minimalist discourse. Such a vision will enable Europe to emerge as a global power as opposed to an introverted regional player.
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Hasan Kösebalaban; The Permanent “Other”? Turkey and the Question of European Identity. Mediterranean Quarterly 1 December 2007; 18 (4): 87–111. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10474552-2007-027
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