In much of the Muslim world, secularization has proceeded through the modernizing mechanisms of the region's various states. By contrast, social movements committed to the (re)introduction of religion into public and political life have frequently functioned through appeals to the popular will. Recent political events in Turkey present a dramatic contrast to this historically established antagonism between secularization and populist politics. In the spring of 2007 a series of mass demonstrations, rallied in the name of secularism and against the elected Islamist regime, were conducted in several of Turkey's major urban centers. The figure of the secularist crowd provides an image of secularism grounded not in the coercive apparatuses of the military and the modernizing bureaucracy but in an assertion of populism. This article explores the tentative formation of a secular populism. I argue that this particular conjuncture not only displays the persistent contradictions that subtend the relationship between secularism and populist politics but also reveals the tensions that sustain the field of democratic politics in Turkey.
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Kabir Tambar; Secular Populism and the Semiotics of the Crowd in Turkey. Public Culture 1 September 2009; 21 (3): 517–537. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2009-006
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